This Year’s Best

I’m planning to enjoy the last week of the year without writing any new blog posts. If you are here, though, and looking for something to read on that new iPad of yours (or your same old laptop but with holiday time on your hands), I made a list of the top posts from this year from Rare Rocks along with some of my comments.

1. With Facebook as My Witness from Februrary

I feel like I wrote this a couple of years ago! It’s still advice I give often concerning a problem I actually see getting worse. Most of the time it could be summed up as saying, “Play nice, everyone!” But there are other concerns with Facebook and social networking in general that I know we haven’t even begun to figure out.

2. The Problem with Smart Girls (Part One) from March

This was one of my favorite pieces to write because the topic was so close to my heart (and my reality with three little girls!). I’ve also applied the principles to my own life and hope to continue that into my New Year. It didn’t have as many hits, but I think Part Two was pretty good stuff, too.

3. Beautiful, Fragile Jars from April

This one has become an all-time favorite post because it brought together some ideas I had been thinking about for years. I just needed the right context, I guess, for being able to express it well.

 

I hope you take a bit of time to review your own year. It helps us be more intentional going into the next when we remind ourselves of what worked and what didn’t in the previous.

All the best to you and yours!

Felicity

The Day He Gives

I was struck by this quote I read on Twitter this week:

“The truth is, what we call interruptions are precisely our real life, the life God is sending us day by day.” –C.S. Lewis

Sitting here today at home – when I was planning to be at work finishing up course planning for the upcoming semester – I’m aware of how this truth could help me live more peacefully. More in sync with Jesus’ caution that we don’t worry about tomorrow but live each day as it comes.

Last night Macy puked right before bed, following the example of her old sisters – Ada on Sunday and Claire on Tuesday. The whole house is basically wondering when the next one of us is going to drop. We’re eating toast and saltines and drinking Sprite. We’re crashing on sofas and watching lots of TV. We’re cancelling planned shopping trips. (We’re wiping everything down with Clorox wipes!) We’re being forced to slow down.

After getting everyone to bed last night, I retreated to my mom and dad’s house to watch my Missouri Tigers play basketball on their HD TV. During the boring parts (we lead that game by more than 10 for a long time), we talked about how it seems like someone is always getting this stomach bug around Christmas time. We think it was Serenity’s Jake last year maybe? Her the year before. It’s just life. It just happens.

So why do I get frantic about it? As a favorite Jon Foreman lyric says it, “Why do I freak out?” Why do I sometimes go to bed thinking, “How will I survive if I have to be up all night taking care of them?!” Because, really, couldn’t I cancel something the next day? Couldn’t I just accept the illness as a chance to slow down and stay in? Sure, I’d rather stay in and have everyone be healthy, but this is the interruption I’ve been given. How will I use it?

Too often I’m frustrated not because things are so bad but because they simply haven’t gone according to my plan.

Those are my Christmas Eve Eve thoughts today, Rare Rocks. Let’s take whatever day we’re given this season and do our best with it. Let’s forget about our expectations for what life should be and just accept it for what it is.

Have any of your interruptions frustrated you this week or have you already figured this one out? Do tell.

 

True Christmas Spirit

The World Vision blog asked bloggers to take on this question: “What is true Christmas spirit?” Their own bloggers responded with the 12 Blogs of Christmas, and they also opened the topic for other bloggers to join in.

As you know from this post and this one, we started sponsoring Silindokuhle through World Vision in August. This has been one of our greatest blessings as a family this year. The kids are learning that their choices effect “our” little boy in South Africa. At our garage sale in the Fall, they carefully counted each dime and quarter and then celebrated when we reached the magical number we send in each month. When they packed Operation Christmas Child boxes, they hoped theirs would go to Silindokuhle! : ) We are Team World Vision, so when their blog asked for posts, I knew I wanted to do it.

In trying to decide what the true Christmas spirit was to me, I started by making a mental list of my favorite Christmas songs. That’s right, most of what I know comes from a song.

Favorite Christmas Song: O Little Town of Bethlehem. Ever since I heard Amy Grant sing it with an alternate melody and I really listened to the words.

Favorite Line: “Yet in thy dark streets shineth the Everlasting Light”

And that’s it for me. True Christmas spirit is light shining in darkness. God coming to earth. God coming to me. Me being filled with that light and going to dark places myself. Maybe those dark places are in my own heart. I know they are all around me in my world. I have to go; in body as often as possible, in spirit always. I can’t look for neat clean streets or hearts or situations. Light is almost invisible in a room already full of it. This Light is looking for darkness. This is the Gospel, the Good News.

Bethlehem, even in your mess, Jesus is born. Even in your dirty, dark streets, He shines. I remember that I have dark streets, too, but that God has never been stopped by anything like that. And, finally, I understand that if I really want to be part of who He is, then I’m going to try and be light in dark streets, too.

Even, or especially, at Christmas. That’s true Christmas spirit.

Do you have a favorite song lyric that embodies true Christmas spirit?

Leave it to the Breeze

I’m preparing my Christian Classics class for the Spring and came across this advice from the editorial team at Renovaré on making selections for their devotional reading anthology 25 Books Every Christian Should Read:

In our choosing, of course, we had to set some parameters. One of the most obvious is that we excluded all books from living authors. Our belief is that it is best for books to be in the canon for a while before we can clearly evaluate their worth and helpfulness. As C. S. Lewis pointed out in his introduction to St. Athanasius’s On the Incarnation (one of the twenty-five books we have selected), old books have the advantage of being tested by time. As Lewis wrote, “A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light . . . . The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (‘mere Christianity’ as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books.” Thus we have given preference to those books that have been tested by “the clean sea breeze of the centuries,” as Lewis puts it.

What I love most about this quote is how it settled something I’ve been asking myself for years. As someone interested in being published someday, I wrestle with the many complicated feelings and emotions toward already successful authors that can basically be summed up in one terrible word: jealousy. I hate that about myself, but if I’m being honest about my faults, there it is.

And because I have this terrible fault, I don’t trust my own judgement toward other authors. But, if I’m honest (and I ignore this log in my own eye), I still feel like I’m onto something. I mean, why do we read spiritual advice from authors who have obvious character flaws (much worse than my own, of course)? Do you ever ask yourself this question: Why am I listening to what this person has to say about living for Jesus when — take a breath because I’m about to be controversial — he can’t even be nice to someone who doesn’t support his Kickstarter campaign?

I KNOW! I’m terrible. (I already admitted that.)

But this quote answers some of that for me. Basically, we can’t know from all of the many Christian Living books written today which ones will be around in fifty or more years. And that will be the true measure of success. So, for me today, the pressure is off. (And deciding whether or not the industry is too corrupt to even take part in is also probably off the table.)

Basically, I don’t have to figure it out. I just follow the Holy Spirit and leave judgement to “the clean breeze of the centuries.”

 

 

Rare Finds: Gift Ideas

A family member recently confessed that she had no idea what I meant when I suggested a “socially conscious” Christmas gift theme. And then as the conversation continued in our family group emails (including my dad’s fears that I’ve been sipping the liberal agenda Kool-aid), I realized I should give up that dream.

But YOU! You might be interested in what I had in mind.

The idea isn’t so much about a liberal or hippie agenda as it is about trying to do as much as possible with the money I spend this year at Christmas. I’m looking for businesses that have a heart. Sure, I can buy pretty jewelry at Khol’s, but if I buy it from Noonday Style I know part of the money is invested in the future of developing nations. Better yet, our support of some of these groups can actually provide jobs and skill training for women at risk of homelessness and poverty.

I won’t be able to do it for everyone on my list (or even very many), but if I’m looking for something similar anyway, why not give to the group that offers to help make the world a little better for someone else.

So, with all of that in mind, here are a few ideas.

1. Love Birds from Noonday Collection

This business was created by an adoptive mom who believed her friends in Texas would be willing to buy jewelry and other products from the Rwandan artists she met and loved. She was right, and Noonday now offers gifts and accessories from all over the world. Their name comes from Isaiah 28: 10 – “. . . when you satisfy the needs of the oppressed, . . . your night will become like the noonday.”

2. Patterned Baby Blanket from Sari Bari

I’ve featured this business before, and I found their shipping fast and their product soft and pretty. Each item is hand-crafted from recycled saris in India and includes information on the women who have been freed from prostitution thanks to your support. I love anything that reminds me of the power of restoration.

3. Sugar-Free Mints from Project7

You can pick these up at Wal-Mart in our area and they don’t cost much more than a regular tin of Altoids. But your purchase of my favorite flavor (green label) also plants a fruit tree! A tiny difference? Sure, but a difference just the same. And they have great packaging!

4. Coffee from Laughing Man

Is Hollywood more your style? This company was started by Hugh Jackman after he visited Ethiopia with World Vision and met a coffee farmer.

The human connection, that’s what I love. Just people helping people. That’s all I mean by socially conscious – remembering that everyone is a person, a living person with feelings and needs and a heart. If I can do something to make a difference for a person, I’m going to. To close, you might enjoy the video from Jackman’s coffee company. Pretty inspiring.

 Also, if you are truly buying for someone who doesn’t need a thing, consider sending a gift to someone in actual need in the name of your problem recipient. Dan is determined to buy someone a goat this year. Check out the World Vision Gift Catalog for more ideas.

Or – apparently I’m not finished yet – buy LOCAL! Support the artists in your community. Shop at the independent bookshop. It’s tough to make a living as a local shop owner or self-employed artist/musician (you’ve seen You’ve Got Mail enough times to know that!), so do what you can to be part of your local economy. Make a human connection.

 

UPDATE (10:40 a.m.) –

Add your own links and ideas below! We’re sure to come up with something for everyone!