I'm working on a new blog layout. Nothing fancy. I'm just tweaking a few things here and there that you can change with a basic Blogger account. I was weary of the brown background. It was just so...brown. Like my wardrobe, Aaron just snickered. I do wear a lot of brown. But! No more on the blog.
I'm also adding labels to all the posts so it will be easier to go back and read certain posts.
But these things take time, so bear with me in transition.
It is early. It is Christmas Eve morning. In a rare move, Aaron awoke earlier than me. I found him reading on the couch at 7:30. I was sleepy and felt like going back to bed for a long winter's nap. But the sight of my husband, grinning on this unprecedented morning, kept me up. I headed for the coffee pot.
Somewhere between my coffee and the first putterings about the house, the fire proved to be too much for the man. I returned to this:
He so dearly loves being warm while he sleeps.
The dining room table looks like this.
I stayed up too late working on a scrapbook for Aaron's grandma. We are going to my parents' house tonight and then to Aaron's family tomorrow, meaning any gift we want to give must be done and wrapped by 5 o'clock today. Even though she recently fell through for me, I somehow decided I wanted to be just like Martha and make most of the gifts we are giving this year. Which means that today I will be baking 5 loaves of bread, mixing 5 cinnamon butters, finishing 3 cookie platters, creating 1 calendar, and a partridge in a pear tree.
But this morning, I sit. I brush aside all the Martha ambitions and realize I am that Martha from long ago, the one whom Jesus chastised. "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things,but few things are needed—or indeed only one."
The room is quiet and cozy. The Christmas tree sparkles from the corner, and I wonder how much of the mystery I have missed for mayhem instead. All my good intentions might just obscure the miracle of the One who came, the One who first wants not my service but my adoration.
I return to familiar words and beg for the veil to fall. To see anew with Spirit's help. "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel--which means, God with us."
God with us. The one thing that is needed. It is indeed a miracle of the most grand proportions. The King Most High stepped down to His people, the harassed and helpless, the wounded and weeping, the broken and confused, the self-righteous and pious.
This post was supposed to be about baking. And I thought I would throw in how I have undertaken substitute teaching again. But mostly, baking. Five minutes ago, I tasted one of the cookies that I spent a very long time baking, and it tasted like CARDBOARD. I am pondering giving up the post and giving up baking. I have consoled myself that they are for my family, who won't judge me, and the snowflake design still looks pretty, but, dang it Martha Stewart, I thought your cookie recipe would be a good one. You are Martha, after all.
When I bake, my kitchen looks like this. Messy Bessy. That should be my kitchen code-name. I like to blame it on the severe lack of counter space. I have been known to use the top of the fridge as a surface to set things when the space gets sparse...you can imagine how that ends when I jerk open the freezer a little later.
Aaron sat on the floor and played me ballads. Which reminds me, today when I was subbing, a kindergarten boy told a kindergarten girl that she looked sexy. Why does a five-year-old know how to use the word sexy? Oh gracious. Now may he call her cute? Yes, please. But not sexy, unless he wants to make his sub cry. Which, now that I think about it, he probably did want that.
In addition to the Cookies Made Of Cardboard, I made these buckeyes, which turned out tasty. The baking night was not a complete loss. It was hard to make them look as beautiful as the food blogger did, but I direct you to my mantra for the night: they are for family.
And if the family don't like 'em, well, gosh, they've got the gingerbread. Oh wait...
Here, in Exhibit A, please note the hunk of gingerbread dough that was destined for disaster.
Here, in Exhibit B, please note the cookie it became, which does look quite charming. So if you could imagine a flavor other than cardboard as you gaze upon it, that would be nice.
About subbing. Here are some of the best nuggets:
"Are you Justin Bieber's mom?" - 2nd grade girl
Hmm...Weaver and Bieber...I can see how the mistake was made...
"You should shave your hair. You have really dark hair on your arm. Girls aren't supposed to have dark hair." - Kindergarten boy
Tonight is still. The dryer downstairs sings its soothing tune while Lara does her creative thing. She's been sick the past 5 days or so, and it is great seeing her get back to her normal self. I think she's trying to make up for all that lost time.
To inform you of what has gone on the past few weeks, the most important is:
We bought a real Christmas tree. If we ever get a fake one, I will not celebrate Christmas. I know, it's not about me, it's about Jesus. But, come on, it's like having your wedding, and your best man, maid of honor, and all the guests are not real but gnomes.
Second, we ended up house sitting and broke the cardinal rule of real Christmas tree caring: watering. Yes, we neglected our fine friend. We ended up house sitting for an amazing family and thus forgot about our tree.
So, Nathan, Rachel, Lara, and I, at 10:30pm, attempted to take the tree out of its stand and saw it with the dullest, flimsiest hack saw. I think a butter knife would have done better.
Not to mention, we kept the decorations on.
But after much labor, we decided to get the big guns out and take it out with a circular saw. Did I tell ya there were two sleeping kids in the house? When all we done, to say the least, we redecorated the tree. Got to change the things we didn't like the first time, right?!
She's asking me to help. I think I will. So much for blogging! Hope this was both informational and entertaining.
5 minutes later...
I've been decommissioned from my duties due to lack of artistic ability.
So one more thing. Lara and I come from two different and distinct camps when it comes to toothpaste etiquette. Lara enjoys squeezing the tube wherever her hand may land (usually the middle of the tube). I, however, enjoy squeezing from the bottom, thus pushing all toothpaste upward getting maximum usage out of an entire tube. All that to say, whether she's a middle of the tube squeezer or not, I still love her.
Where do you squeeze?
Lara made this ginger cookie for me with the great Mary Grace Harris. Gotta love it!
I've been reading several books lately that are tearing up my heart, in the very best way. The other week I wrote about dreams that were stirring in me after a long, dry few years. The Lord has been using these books to stir and churn me. If I am honest about my spiritual state the last few years, it often has been me just doing the best I can, knowing Christ is real and victorious, but not often living it. Knowing that He is the treasure in a field for which a man sells all his possessions, yet attempting to buy the field and keep my treasures. Um, maybe I could take out a loan?
When I got back from India in 2007, my heart was broken. In many ways, my faith in the God of my fathers was shaken. Was God good? Were His redemption and transformation realities to bank on in the darkest depths of this Earth? Did He have any purpose for my life?
So I came home to Missouri, and I think part of the way I chose to handle all that hurt was by just hiding it away and returning to normal. Normal doesn't peel scabs off tender skin. Normal doesn't grapple with faith in a dirty, sweaty boxing ring. Normal finds a niche in mainstream culture and just does its thing. But the devastating truth is, normal doesn't follow Jesus like He calls us to follow.
God is graciously bringing me to a place where I can see this. A place where I ache to really know Him and make Him known. A place where I am willing to load everything that I have filled my heart with since India and put it on the garbage barge and send it out to sea. Anything that is not Him, I want to go.
Here are the books. I tell you about them because they have encouraged/and are encouraging me greatly. Nothing can replace the power of God's Word, and if you only have so much time to read, read the Word first! But if you can fit a little extra reading material in, I recommend these.
#1 - Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. I resisted reading this book at first, because it seemed like everyone in Christendom was reading it. Aaron's friend gave it to him, and for a few months I saw it every now and then on Aaron's nightstand, and I would hide it under some other books or knock it behind the bed or you get the picture. I just really did not want to read it. I knew enough about the book's premise to know that if I read it, I would have to change some things in my life. Finally, I picked it up. And it is rockin' me, friends.
"I found myself faced with two questions. The first was simple. Was I going to believe Jesus? Was I going to embrace Jesus even though He said radical things that drove the crowds away? The seccond question was even more challenging. Was I going to obey Jesus? My biggest fear, even now, is that I will hear Jesus' words and walk away, content to settle for less than radical obedience to Him...You and I can choose to continue with business as usual in the Christian life and in the church as a whole, enjoying success based on the standards defined by the culture around us. Or we can take an honest look at the Jesus of the Bible and dare to ask what the consequences might be if we really believed Him and really obeyed Him."
#2 - The Triumph of John and Betty Stam by Mrs. Howard Taylor. I bought this biography of John and Betty Stam, missionaries to China in the 1930s, at a book sale in college. I think I read pieces of it in college, but I read the whole thing through in about two hours last week. John and Betty were martyred by Communists and after their death, their little baby girl was found by friends in their village. The witnesses of their death testified that they went to the execution without fear or sorrow. That is not the product of a moment's decision! That is the result of years of trusting Jesus and finding Him to be faithful! I want to know Christ in such depth that when death arrives, it is but a page turn to the sweetest chapter.
As a student at Moody in the middle of the Depression, John wrote the following, which I found to be prophetic to our age too:
"This bewildered age needs to know that only 'the foundation of God standeth sure.' Many a man is being torn loose, these days, from the things to which the heart has clung. It is ours to show the incorruptible riches which bank failures and economic conditions cannot touch. It is ours to show, in the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and in personal communion with Him, a joy unspeakable and full of glory that cannot be affected by outside circumstances."
#3- They Found the Secret by V. Raymond Edman. My mom told me about this book, and she even lent it to me. Well, I was busy, and so I gave it back a few months later without cracking it open. Then, I found it at a garage sale not too long after. I figured it was a sign. :) It's a compilation of 20 short biographies of men and women who "found the promise of life more abundant to be true."
From the chapter on Hudson Taylor:
"It is the abiding life that is fruitful...the life that is Christ is abiding and abounding, it is satisfying and overflowing. How then shall a Christian bear fruit? ...There must be
a full concentration of the thoughts and affections on Christ
a complete surrender of the whole being to Him
a constant looking to Him for grace."
#4 - A Chance to Die by Elizabeth Elliot. I haven't read this book lately, but it is one of my top 5 favorite books. It is a biography of Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India in the late 1800s. The title sums up Amy's heart: she saw her whole life as a chance to die for Christ, whether that was in her life work of saving girls from temple prostitution or in her later bedridden years when all she could do was write. How many Christians do you know today whose life theme is "a chance to die"? How odd that is to our culture, where success and comfort are top pursuits and everybody wants to live as long as they can.
To sum up what these books are collectively speaking to me, it is that "Jesus it the treasure." Jesus and His glory made known are what matters. He is enough. He is more than enough, He is life spilling over. Following Him hard matters. It is obedience to Him and His life revealed to the world.