Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Change in the Making

I had a rough day today, so I wanted to share some words of hope in the form of this song by the Christian band Addison Road. The song's called A Change in the Making. Here's the YouTube video I like, and here are the lyrics:

There's a better version of me
That I can't quite see
But things are gonna change
Right now I'm a total mess and
Right now I'm completely incomplete
But things are gonna change
Cause you're not through with me yet

This is redemption's story
With every step that I'm taking
Every day, you're chipping away
What I don't need
This is me under construction
This is my pride being broken
And every day I'm closer to who I'm meant to be
I'm a change in the making

Wish I could live more patiently
Wish I could give a little more of me
Without stopping to think twice
Wish I had faith like a little child
Wish I could walk a single mile
Without tripping on my own feet
But you're not through with me yet

And this is redemption's story
With every step that I'm taking
And every day, you're chipping away
What I don't need
This is me under construction
This is my pride being broken
Every day I'm closer to who I'm meant to be

From the dawn of history
You make new and you redeem
From a broken world to a broken heart
You finish what you start in everything
Like a river rolls into the sea
We're not who we're going to be
But things are going to change

I'm living redemption's story
With every step that I'm taking
And every day, you're chipping away
What I don't need
And this is me under construction
This is my pride being broken
And every day I'm closer to who I'm meant to be
I'm a change in the making

I'm not who I'm gonna be
Moving closer to your glory

Praise God for the glory revealed in the baby born in Bethlehem! This is the God-man who chips away at our hard hearts to make us new. If you're having a hard time in any way, I pray that you'll be able to sing this song with gusto, knowing that both the good and the bad give shape and form to the Redemption Story whose chief author is an infinitely good God.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Imperfect Christmas

On the Colbert women's retreat a couple weeks ago, one of the speakers confessed the tension caused when she wishes for a perfect Christmas. She wants the house to be perfectly clean, all the shopping done, cookies baked for each of her four children, and the list goes on. She deftly exposed the stark paradox of contemporary American Christmas. A holiday with the humblest of origins has become a rat race for who can have the biggest, the best, the most expensive, and the most together Christmas.
Perhaps this is why A Charlie Brown Christmas is so endearing to us. It presents imperfection candidly. This is also why I love the book The Best Christmas Pagent Ever by Barbara Robinson (please, please read it if you haven't!). What turns out in both movie and book to be nearly disastrous is actually the source of the most poignant Christmas truths. Who can forget Linus' recitation of the Christmas story? Who can overlook the tears of Imogene Herdman as she holds baby Jesus?
At Christmas, I love sorting through the boxes of ornaments my parents, sister, and I have collected over the years. Each one carries a memory of a beloved friend or family member. Over Thanksgiving, I picked out a four-foot tree from my grandpa's Christmas Tree Farm and drove it back to Spokane with a box full of my ornaments. One ornament in particular was destined for the prime spot on my small, Charlie-Brownish tree:    
As I was shopping at Target between Thanksgiving and now, I saw lots of gaudy Christmas-tree toppers, and I disliked them all. My grandpa, the Christmas tree farm owner, made me this rough, wood-hewn star and spray-painted it this bronzy-gold color. Its hook is fashioned from a piece of spare wire that came from my grandpa's shop. Besides the fact that my grandpa made this ornament for me, I love it because it's imperfect. It's just wood. It's not shiny or flashy. It reminds me of the manger and the scared parents and the cold night and the smelly animals. My star is perfect even with its imperfections.
It reminds me that Jesus' birth was perfect even with its imperfections, too. And with the reality of God Incarnate, who is free from sin, we're forced to embrace humility and imperfection while clinging to the fact that the only imperfection Jesus embraces is ours.   
On Sunday, I joined a group of adults and kids from Colbert on a Christmas caroling trip. We visited a number of homebound seniors from our church community. There were lots of imperfections about our caroling trip. We tracked in mud on a white carpet. The 10-year-old violin player was squeaky. We were several keys above our normal singing range. The bodies of the people we visited are failing.
But somehow our ragtag group still proclaimed the Christmas message. And perhaps proclaimed it better because we joined the legions of stories, experiences, hymns, and Gospel truths that tell of the real reason Christmas is best with a little imperfection. I believe Charles Wesley says it best: "Hark! The Herald angels sing. Glory to the newborn king! Peace on earth and mercy mild. God and sinners reconciled."
May this Christmas be one in which you embrace the perfect love of a God who chooses to embrace our fumbling imperfections, bronzy gold paint, rough edges, squeaky voices, and all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Cooking Hiatus

You may not believe this, but I've had little or no creative energy to cook in the past couple weeks. I've been eating an inordinate number of easy meals (grilled cheese, scrambled eggs, etc.). This is not my usual self (as you well know). I have ideas for what to cook, but no energy to implement them.

Honestly, I think I'm still getting used to working full time. Not the work itself--I'm used to that--but rather the limitations that working full time puts on my free time. There's simply no way to fit everything I want to do into the free time I have. And yet sometimes, I feel paralyzed. There's so much I could do, I'm not sure what I should do. I've talked about this before on the blog. So you can see that it continues to be a struggle for me.

However, I didn't intend to write a blog about this topic. I mostly set out to write a blog to process what I've been feeling and experiencing recently. Writing has always helped me process my life. Tonight, I mostly want to write about some lovely meals I've had in the past couple days that were provided for me.

On Friday and Saturday, I was at a women's retreat for my church at Camp Spaulding, which is a Presbyterian camp and retreat center north of Spokane. On Friday afternoon, my friend Margaret and I drove the 45 minutes north to camp. It was snowy at camp in contrast to wet and rainy Spokane. The lodge is a beautiful place with four-person rooms that include bathrooms. (This is my kind of roughing it!) There were about 45 women from Colbert at the retreat, which tells me that time for seeking Christ in fellowship with other women is a deeply felt need. I'm now praying that God would be faithful to bring about new and deeper relationships amongst the women who were there.

We got to enjoy dinner on Friday and breakfast and lunch on Saturday at the lodge. The food was wonderful. On Friday night, we had stuffed chicken breasts, a big salad, rolls, fresh fruit, and, for dessert, German Chocolate cake. The breakfast was rather atypical for a camp meal, but it was delicious. Pumpkin scones with pumpkin butter, parfaits with yogurt, frozen raspberries, and granola, and bacon. I had so much at breakfast, I was hardly hungry for lunch. I did find a little corner of room in my stomach and boy am I glad I did! Lunch was a pureed squash soup with pumpkin seeds on top, artichoke dip with fresh slices of bread, and a big salad with lots of good ingredients. Dessert, a necessity on a retreat, was big, soft ginger cookies.

I decided to write about the meals with such detail because of the detail that was put into each meal in the first place. I think it's a beautiful picture of the Kingdom of God to serve meals with such thoughtfulness, generosity, and creativity. I also loved the time of fellowship around the table. There's something so satisfying and unifing about eating a good meal with friends around a table.

The other meal I want to write about is my Monday night dinner with the Colbert Children's Ministry committee. We were at one committee member's house, and she prepared a feast: tortellini with pesto, spaghetti with clam sauce, rotini with tomato sauce, turkey meatballs, white rolls, and a salad with romaine, black olives, sliced cucumber, and an Italian dressing. For dessert, we had brownies with either peppermint or vanilla ice cream, hot fudge or caramel, and spiced nuts. This meal particularly brings out the creativity. I would never have thought to add spiced nuts to your basic brownie/ice cream combo or turkey meatballs with a pesto pasta.

Perhaps some of my unenthusiasm recently is that I only cook for myself. I am definitely more motivated to cook when I'm making food for other people. I'm praying that in the coming couple weeks, I can be creative with my meals, but still allow myself some grace when all I feel like eating is peanut butter and jam on toast.

But whether it's toast or stuffed chicken breasts for dinner, I'm praying that we can all be thoughtful, generous, and creative in our approach to the Christian life and our relationships with others. May food be just the start!

P.S. Thanks to my housemate for the fresh, gooey brownie I just ate. Yum. Not healthy, maybe, but certainly generous and thoughtful. :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

This is the Day that the Lord has Made!

My housemate, Pam, had a wonderful idea. Each of my five housemates wrote a note to the other four housemates and put our notes, along with a small chocolate, into an Advent calendar that Pam owns. So about every five days, each of us gets to open the little red wooden door and pull out an encouraging piece of chocolate and an even more encouraging note. I have read two of my notes so far, and it was a great blessing to write down things I appreciate about my housemates, too.

The picture above was made for me by my housemate Katie, and I love it! The detail is so lovely. I have it at my desk at work and it brings me joy and encouragement throughout the day. I pray that seeing this picture encourages you this day, as well, because, after all, this is the day that the LORD has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!