Packing Jammies

The worst part of any vacation is the packing. The worst part of vacation packing is the packing you do when you are heading home. The bags never pack as neatly on the way home as they did on the way out the door. You have to sort through the dirty clothes, the could-be-worn-again clothes, and the clothes still in the suitcase untouched. The leaving suitcase smells like dryer sheets and the going-home suitcase has any number of unfamiliar smells about it.

I heard a preacher once talk about the way God wraps up seasons in our lives, how he literally gives us time to savor the ending of something before we move onto something new. His example was the graveclothes of Jesus left alone in the empty tomb as a reminder that the season of death was over. The linen cloths could have transfigured along with Jesus’ body, but they remained as a symbol of the transition.

That is what packed bags are for me today – a sign of our movement from vacation to routine. I’m thankful for it but wish, as I do with most transitions, that is was over. But there must be a reason. As Dan wanders around his childhood home gathering the loot his own children have accumulated over the holiday I know we are nearing our departure time. As I try to cram several new outfits in among the old ones, I am reminded of our blessings this holiday season. The packing gives us a chance to reflect and assess. We will load up our van tomorrow and embark on the 6 hour drive that always provides us valuable talk time.

Hope all your transitions over this coming week are smooth but revelatory. Enjoy the journey into a New Year!


The Nativity

My favorite part of Christmas is setting out the Nativity. My mother-in-law bought me all the pieces to our Fontanni set over the course of a few years. The style is very classic, but the pieces are made of resin and won’t break when little people insist on rearranging the figures to suit. Several years ago Jesse insisted on a very particular arrangment: all figures facing the Baby Jesus in concentric circles outward. It was the sweetest reminder of how we should be focusing during the holiday season to walk up to the piano and find all the Wise Men with their backs to the “TV audience” but their faces to the Audience of One.

Watch this clip from Igniter Media. They do great multi-media stuff for churches. This piece on the Nativity is especially good.

Merry Christmas! Happy Jesus Watching!

Do You Still Work Here?

I once edited a review on a book that examined the need for margins in a person’s life. The idea is that you need to build margins into your day to help you avoid stress and burn-out. 9:00 class run late? No problem, since you built in a 30 minute margin before your next appointment you won’t be tardy. You get the idea.

I remember thinking, how wise. How very smart. What a great way to say that.

But, I clearly don’t know how to do this in my own life. Seriously. I have NO margins!

When I have no margins, it is a household disaster when one of the kids is too sick for school. Since at least 2 out of 4 have taken turns being ill over the last week you can imagine my state of mind.

When I have no margins, the homework that I actually enjoy becomes a dreaded task. Since my finals week is perfectly corresponding to our outbreak of the Plague you can imagine my state of mind.

So, dear readers, here I am checking-in because I so very much love this venue and you’ve been sorely neglected. I do apologize, but since I was too busy squeezing in that editing job between my non-existent margins, I don’t even know the title of that book, so there is apparently no help for me.

When I called into work today my wonderful boss, noting the terrible weather and my challenging week, said, “Maybe this is just the day you needed to get yourself some rest.” I almost cried – further proof of margin-less living: tears when someone gives you a break.

So, I found a margin today in an unexpected way and I hope you do too.

A Rare Find: Advent Conspiracy

This interdenominational group gives specifically to fresh water projects, but you could follow the principles and give to the mission of your choice. Our family is definitely scaling down Christmas this year but probably not for all the right reasons. Still, thinking about giving gifts of presence instead of just giving presents is inspiring. Check it out:

Appropriate Smallness

Sometimes it is good to remember the smallness of my place in this world. It is good to remember that my problems are relatively small and proportionately easy to solve.

On Sunday night at church I was reminded of this by the simple act of the man sitting in the row behind me. He didn’t say anything to me. In fact, I’m sure we’ve never exchanged more than a few words. He is from India and is still conquering English, but his actions preached an eloquent message to me in that moment.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the turmoil in the Pakistan/India region in recent days. It is the kind of drama that I usually watch clips about on the news and still don’t understand exactly what has happened, even though I have dear family members living in that part of the world. I am embarassingly uninformed. I need a good long conversation with my Dad about it; he always helps me make sense of this kind of thing. But, anyway, I’m sure you have heard that tensions are high and people are nervous.

At the end of our church service, I sat in my row absent mindedly. My hands were already moving to gather stray sippy cups and rogue crayons when I felt a swoosh of air as the quiet Indian man behind me stood to his feet, arms stretched toward Heaven. A few people had gathered in the altar area to pray, but the church was otherwise seated and awaiting our dismissal. Dan was singing a worship song, but this man did not join in. He began to pray in that upright position. I couldn’t understand a word, but I felt every emotive syllable. His homeland was in distress and he would not be content to simply sit in the safety of America and not intercede for his people.

I am certain I have rarely seen this man express emotions like the ones he was releasing to God in that moment. He was fervent, and I couldn’t help but utter a small prayer of my own. Help them, God. Make a way for peace. Protect the innocent and let justice be done. Amen.