Monday, December 28, 2009

how was your Christmas?

"How was your Christmas?" - gear up, because if you didn't hear it over the weekend, that's going to be the question you hear for the next week :)

Mine was actually wonderful. A really fun, slightly overwhelming, but still wonderful day. I went over to the west side of the state with Carson's family. We spent Christmas eve and Christmas morning with his dad's side whom I'd never met but greatly enjoyed meeting (and I think I remember all the names!). After that we went to his parent's house where we hung out (and I met more people!), had a big meal similar to a Thanksgiving meal and then opened gifts.

The day after Christmas, we slept in, went around the lake, and went to return a few Christmas things. Some of us girls got our nails done and then seven of us piled into a five-seater car to return back to the house. We played games after dinner and watched a movie. After church on Sunday, we made lunch, ate, then I watched a movie with the girl cousins. Last night we went back home to Spokane.


A lot of people say that Christmas is about family. Ultimately, it is not. But family is a huge part of Christmas! Christmas all alone just couldn't be the same. You can thank God for what He has done, for coming to earth, meditate on those things, but the holiday celebratory part would be rather sad all by yourself. I love spending time with family at Christmas - it's one of the best things about it. It's why I was sad not to be in South Carolina!

But I discovered something this Christmas. It is that families are not just biological. They aren't just people you have known your entire life. I know this because I felt like I was with family this Christmas, like I was one of them. Yes, I will soon be be one of them by marriage, but they have already included me. I don't know of a better family to be included in.

Christmas in Washington was very different, but not a loss at all. I gained a new perspective on the people I'll now know for the rest of my life. I gained more of a relationship with those people. I gained understanding of what it means to be hospitable and to welcome others into your life. I gained a lot. This new family is such a blessing. I'm excited to be a part of their lives. I'm thankful for who they are and how they interact. I'm thankful that most of them are believers and are my sisters and brothers in Christ. I'm thankful for the fellowship.

So how was your Christmas? Mine was great.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

He's Wonderful.

I like to think that I'm wonderful. Not outright, of course, because that would not be wonderful, but I give myself quite a few pats on the back now and then. The center of my own world, the main character in my own feature-length film...

However, I am not wonderful, and the Christmas story shows me every year that God is.

The first words to describe wonderful on dear old are "excellent; great; marvelous; of a sort that causes or arouses wonder; amazing; astonishing." Clearly, I am none of those.

When I think I'm great and wonderful, it's because I'm being great and wonderful all on my own; it's a charming characteristic. But when I read about the things and specifically the people in the Christmas story, I stop thinking about myself and am just amazed at how wonderful the Lord is.

Zacharias didn't believe the angel - he was troubled and afraid at the visit by Gabriel and thought he and his wife Elizabeth were too old to be parents. Yet, Zacharias was the father of John, the forerunner for Jesus Christ. Mary was a virgin. She was engaged but not married, and told that she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit. To me, that's a stranger thing than an old couple having a baby. She demonstrated complete trust in the Lord and praised God. Joseph didn't really understand it at all either and almost divorced Mary but after a visit from the angel, he changed his mind. Joseph was not the father of Jesus but he was the man on earth who raised Him - now that's a privilege! Then there's the shepherds who were... shepherds. In a field, at night, with sheep. And a host of angels told them about a baby born in a manger and it says that they went straight to Bethlehem. They believed also.

Simeon had waited his entire life to see the Messiah. Finally he did, and his satisfaction in that was evident. Anna also was devout toward the Lord all her life. She praised God when Jesus the baby was brought into the temple. The Magi followed a star for a couple of years, leading them to a toddler aged Messiah. They not only followed the Lord's leading there but when they were told not to return to Herod, they listened to God's leading and obeyed.

All of these characters and the things that happened to make this story so multifaceted make me think "God is wonderful". He wrote this story. He orchestrated the incarnation. Throughout this story it's "God did this" and "God did that". And then we have to go back to prophecies and forward to the death and resurrection of Christ. God did that too.

He is wonderful!
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It didn't start in Bethlehem.

Arise, shine; for your Light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, the darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kinds to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:1-3

A star over the birthplace of Jesus was not the only light that came into the world over 2,000 years ago. Salvation entered. Salvation for the forgiveness of sins; a light in the dark world polluted by sin. The words "hope" and "peace" swirling around this time of year are appropriate. Because Christ came to earth, we have no need to live in darkness but have the hope of eternal life with Him. Because Jesus came to die, we have peace. These aren't just words, it's true and real.

Christmas is my favorite time of year for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest is that I really love thinking about the Incarnation around this season. Jesus being in a manger is only a small bit of it. It's a whole big story, climaxed at His coming to earth. The prophecies of the Messiah promised by God to Israel, the waiting and anticipation all seen in the Old Testament progress to the new.

I've pondered Simeon, the man who had been literally waiting for the Messiah to come. God promised Him that he would not die before seeing the Christ:
"Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of Your people Israel." Luke 2:29-32

Christ's coming to earth meant a lot more than a manger and a star. The baby grew up, became a man, and lived a sinless life on earth. Three years later, He died for the sins of everyone for all time. He brought hope. He was the Messiah, though His own received Him not. And after He died, He rose again. He stayed on earth for a few weeks and then went back to His Father.

The point is, that this didn't start when He was born, and didn't end when He left. That was NOTHING in the realm of time. The whole thing hasn't ended yet. Instead of living for the hope, the light in darkness promised in the Old Testament, we live in hope, because the light has come.

We are privileged to rest in the hope brought by God. How wonderful it is to think about His life, death, and all that led up to it this time of year! How thankful I am for what He has done.

Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." John 8:12

You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light. Ephesians 5:8

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Tree

Here's my tree and my wonderful 10 ornaments (I think I'll buy more after Christmas when they go on sale and just keep them for next year)... 3 from Mom, 3 styrofoam balls covered in yarn/ribbon made by me, 4 clay ornaments made by me, and 1 penguin ornament given to me by my roommate. I have colored lights that aren't showing up in the picture (nothing would show up without flash so I had to choose: see Christmas lights or see ornaments), and white lights around the window. The water bottle on the floor isn't there because I was lazy and didn't clean - it's what I use to water the tree.
It's been interesting watching Christmas arrive in package form this year... I got Nana's box a week ago and put it under the tree and Granddaddy and Grandmama's today. The other boxes of presents on the far left are the wrapped gifts for Carson's family that we'll see over Christmas. I'm keeping them here because I have a tree, and he doesn't :)

Friday, December 11, 2009

o christmas tree

I have a Christmas tree!

When I found out that I'd be staying in Spokane for Christmas, I knew that I wanted to get a tree. My hopes were for a small, artificial one that could sit on the table. Just a small thing. Nothing special.

Carson and I went out today to find one to cut down. The place selling U-Cut trees doesn't open till tomorrow so we stopped at another place. They had trees that we already cut down which was a little sad, but not horrible. Not to mention that the price was really good!

So now I am the proud possessor of one very fat, very full Christmas tree. And five ornaments. I started out with three this morning (thanks, Mom!) and made two this evening... and will make more this weekend. The colored lights help fill it out, I think.

It's like a temporary puppy... water it, be kind to it (turn the lights off), talk about it to your friends, show it off, take pictures of it... it even leaves messes (needles) and smells up the whole house (this is a definite positive over a puppy)!

Pictures are self-explanatory, but I'll explain anyway... the Christmas tree with lights and three out of the five ornaments. Carson tying the tree in the back of the Civic. The tree, when we first saw it. Me expressing my affection for the tree. The tree in the back of the car. The frozen waterfall at the place we got the tree.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

an era has ended.

Today, I took my last final of the semester.

...was that the Hallelujah Chorus I just heard?

That makes me a Junior and a half. Or something :)

It's a huge relief to be finished with the semester. Sixteen weeks I sat here on the floor next to the window (it's where I always sit, not sure why) and wondered if I'd make it to the end. Now I wonder where the time went. It's been a rewarding semester for sure.

Of course I'm tired and beyond thrilled to be done. Saying goodbye to a semester is rarely a sad thing. I'm sad to see friends leave and not return to Spokane because they're transfers or just don't love it out here, but I can't say I'm shedding tears over not having to study for exams anymore.

My favorite class this semester was Philosophy. I loved being able to work my brain and think through things that I didn't really get. Reminded me of lots of great conversations with amazing friends from home. I'm not super intellectual (something those same friends could agree with - love y'all!) but I really do like to reason logically though things. It's kind of fun in its own way.

Intercultural Communication comes in as a close second because it's one of the things that I really love to study - interacting with other cultures. Plus, our class has only three people so it's great. Friday mornings with Meagan, Nick and Dr. Repsold are some of my favorite things :) Psalms is another great class. We started the semester off with poetry and then went through the poetry of the Psalms. I really enjoyed that and can look at them differently now. The papers for that class were beyond my usual reasoning for paper writing so I even got to spend some quality time with the library.

Gospel of John was a good class too. I loved our class discussion times (even though it usually made us get out of class about 10 minutes late) and really liked that we each had to study and write about a chapter of the gospel and then present on it - I went last week on John 20 (and I did well on both paper and presentation which is a bit unexpected and so great!).

The last class to be mentioned (yes, I only took five classes/15 credits... I know, I know) is Linguistics. I want to tell you that I loved this class. I want to say that it was practical, that it made sense and I want to be a linguist now. Sadly, I would be lying if I were to tell you this. Linguistics brought my GPA down. I studied the most for this class and got the worst grades. I understood about 25% of the things taught this entire semester, and wanted to quit.

That said, it was a good class. I did learn. I liked the people in my class... there were only six of us! I like the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and though I can't tell the difference between a fricative and an affricate, I know what sound the symbols make and enjoy writing in that "code". It wasn't all bad, just very hard. Finishing yesterday brought great relief.

The semester had many other wonderful things too: people! Meeting the freshmen, getting to know other people who came in when I did, taking trips, being silly, hanging out, movie nights... those are the things I love best about each semester. I know it's not why I'm here but it's so why I love being here. People really make or break any kind of situation for me (and probably for everyone on the planet) and so I'm really happy for the memories of wonderful things we've done this fall semester.

And so, an era has ended.
Goodbye fall semester 2009!

ps - The picture above was taken yesterday. 5/6 of our linguistics class visited the class next door before finals began and wrote a message to them in IPA, even going so far as to sign our names in it. Since it's not super likely that you can read them, it's Lindsay, Nick, Anastasia, Sarah and Harmony. We were so proud of ourselves.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

staying put

Usually, I like change. I can move from one place to the other quite easily and just accept the fact that things are the way they are. I adapt and change as necessary.

Usually is the operative word here.

Lately, I've balked at the change. Really, just hated it. I didn't realize I was doing that and didn't really understand why I was acting a certain way toward certain events.

Interviewing a friend from school, a missionary kid from Africa, I really took to heart one thing she shared. She said that the shift from life in Africa to life in America was difficult but fun for the first six months. From six months to a year, she pretty much wanted out. Just got tired of it. It took her two years to realize the life that she was living in America, in Spokane, was the life she had and to really be happy and really be excited about that.

I think that a little bit of that is what I've been thinking over. Because this is my life. I'm in Spokane and Spokane is the place I'm supposed to be. In one sense, that means my old life in South Carolina is dying. It's "home" to me but I'm only there for about three or four months each year. I don't live there. I live here. And "home" to me isn't going to be the way it once was.

Just being honest, it's kind of hard right now. Not in a will-you-feel-bad-for-me kind of way, but it's difficult to just sort things out. This seems different from culture shock to a different country, because it's the same country. It's so much the same, yet so completely different. Different scenery, friends, church, weather... and I do like it. I don't have to shake off those old memories, friends or things in my life that have been so familiar, but they're in figurative moving boxes, while I rearrange my mind.

Funny to have an adjustment like that when it's been a year and a half. I guess it's part of the process.

* the picture is of a summer meal at Granddaddy and Grandmamma's. mmm... shrimp!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

deck the halls

I love decorating for Christmas. Thus far we've made decorations out of what was already there - paper and mirror art with dry-erase markers (plus a countdown in the corner of the bathroom mirror). I found some sparkly Christmas trees at the dollar store that added to the festive-ness. Can't wait to get a tree. We'll have to make a lot of ornaments and buy really cheap ones so that process will be fun also. Twenty days!
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