Advent, and What We're Waiting On

12/6/16


It's been awhile since I sat down to write with no agenda.  It looks like the best time to do it is 10:51 pm with my husband crashed on the couch and little boys grunting in their sleep up creaky stairs.  The darkness is the best time, of course, to birth something you hope to be light.

It's Advent now, but my world doesn't feel hushed like I wish it did.

Advent, they say, is a "little Lent": a time of examen, of preparation, of waiting.  I make pathetic attempts at waiting, and then sneak Christmas music in on the side.  This year I just can't bear to wait in the darkness.

We wait, we say, for the baby.

Or we wait, we say, for the Second Coming.

I gather my children, pull all those Y chromosomes in tight, and we light purple candles and sing Emmanuel and we sing for Him to come and I wonder if they can make heads or tails of it.  They just like to watch the beeswax drip and we'll be working on proper execution of the sign of the cross until they graduate high school.  Their utter lack of self-consciousness is refreshing.

They're screwing up Advent, and they don't care one bit.

//

Back in May, I was waiting for labor; I searched for it every day, my swollen feet making laps around the neighborhood.  I logged in miles trying to will that baby out.  I drank castor oil first thing in the morning on my very own birthday.

Come, baby, come let me adore you.

//

Fr. Richard Rohr notes that we love to worship Baby Jesus.  Man, we love to wait for that Baby.  I know I do.  Advent and Christmas are easy.  The Baby elicits awe and gratitude from us.  The Baby requires nothing from us.

It is so embarrassingly easy for me to love Baby Jesus.

Baby Jesus doesn't tell me to pick up my instrument of torture and follow Him.  Baby Jesus doesn't tell me that whatever I do to my fellow human, I have done to Him, and he SURE doesn't tell me that whatever I don't do for my fellow human, I haven't done it for Him.  Baby Jesus doesn't tell me that the first will be last or that the poor are the blessed, or that I'm supposed to turn the other cheek.

Baby Jesus comes to tell me that I am loved and that I am lovable.  And -just as importantly- that you are too.

And I will spin myself in circles for two months with euphoric, pine-scented zeal over that fact and rarely (more rarely than I'd ever want you to know) think about the rest.

The Baby who demands nothing of us, we all so clearly know, becomes a Man who asks everything.  Jesus the Man lays before us a path of action, a path of justice, a path that requires discomfort, heartache, loneliness, and fear.

O come let us adore You.

//

Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

//

My sister teaches second grade in an urban elementary school in Nashville.  Her kids aren't lighting Advent candles with their families at night.  Her kids are coming to school scared, coming to their safe teacher asking impossible questions about the country that is supposed to be theirs but they know is not. They know it isn't.

Children in Aleppo are burning while my boys watch flames on our dining room table, and I didn't want to write that any more than you wanted to read it.

{Can't we just have Christmas? Can't we just have a break from caring about the pain of the world?}

Can't we worship the Baby and not the Man?

//

We wait, they say, for the Baby.

Or we wait, they say, for the Second Coming.

The children of the world call our bluff.  The children of the world sing loud through their eyes, sing tidings not of comfort and joy, but of begging and pleading.  Wake up.  They don't wait for our apologetics, they wait for the restoration of all things.

//

I may await the Baby by lighting candles in the darkness around the table with my family, but I await the Christ by reaching out my hand to the foreigner, the alien, the refugee, the homeless, the imprisoned, the handicapped, the poor, the hungry.

If there be any tradition I hand down to my children when all year is Advent, all year we wait for restoration, may it be that.

November Recap in 7 Quick Takes

12/1/16

Once a month I've been doing quick updates on my family, writing outside this blog, and general randomness I think you might like to know about.  As I'm attempting to be more selective with how I steward my writing time, I've decided that this will be my last family recap post of this kind.  If I do a 7 Quick Takes in the future it will be of a different nature, perhaps curating resources I think will be helpful for you or something similar.  If you'd like to stay more connected, I encourage you to sign up for my monthly (ish) newsletter or find me on Instagram, where you'll get more than your fill of cute pictures of my kids.

Marching onward.

 1 - When I look back on the month of November, I honestly can't remember a single noteworthy thing before our big Thanksgiving trip.  I'm sure I drank some seasonal beverages, read some good books, and snuggled some sweet kids, but for the life of me I'm having a hard time saying anything about November 1-16 that doesn't have to do with the election and let's not get me started on that.  This is supposed to be a fun post.

2 - So, errrr.... a week before Thanksgiving we drove 13 hours to Texas to attend the wedding of two of our favorite people on the planet.  We knew and loved Chris and Brittany separately before they started dating a few years ago and wouldn't have missed their wedding for the world.  I didn't get any photos of the wedding ceremony, but here's a gem from the reception:


Yes, that's my two year old roller skating.  All night long.

3 - We got some good quality time with our Denton Catholic Worker friends at the wedding and were able to visit a separate day as well, where we hung out at their pay-what-you-can restaurant that we (to use an extremely generous phrase) helped start.  It always hurts to leave but we soak it up for as long as we can while we're together.

Moses had a terrible time with his godfather, Andres.


He just sucks.




If you're curious about what this hippie restaurant thing is about, I blabbed a little on IG here. If you're in the North Texas area, here's the Facebook page for Dorothy's Kitchen Table!


Alyosha wasn't asleep, he was just protesting getting his picture taken.  But hey, a peaceful demonstration like a good Catholic Worker kid.

4 - As if that weren't lucky enough, our dear friends and former missions teammates drove two hours to come spend an afternoon with us at Eric's parents house.  Our kids always have the sweetest time together and the four of us can sit and blab for hours.  And always do.  The husbands have been friends for 15 years and the wives not too much less.

Isn't it bizarre when you're old enough to start saying sentences like that?




5 - Spending a full week at my in-laws was seriously like a mini vacay.  They are so generous with us and love being fully hands-on with their grandkids.  We are so lucky, and I never ever forget it.



6 - On Thanksgiving Day we drove to Oklahoma to spend the day with Eric's grandparents and extended family.  His mom is one of 8 kids so holidays are always full to the brim, with four generations gathering under one roof! It's really fun.

I'm seriously regretting not getting a picture of our three boys with their great-grandparents.  When will I ever learn?!

7- Hope your Advent is off to a great start!  I confess I've been lax with my traditionally stringent "no Christmas music until the 12 days of Christmas" stance this year.  I just need some extra hope these days... so I may or may not be listening to Sleeping At Last's FREE Christmas album.  Find out how to access the free download at their website here. (Maybe you'll even be able to save it for Christmastide.  Maybe.)

linking up with Kelly and the gang!

What Gilmore Girls STILL Doesn't Get

11/29/16

Unless you're living under a big ol' Thanksgiving turkey carcass, you've heard that there's a new 4-part Gilmore Girls special on Netflix right now.  Like many American females, I have seen every single episode of this show.  Rather late to the game, my husband and I got hooked a couple of years ago (long after it had gone off the air) by the whimsy and humor of the first few seasons.

What a charming town! What great characters! What unique dialogue!

But by the last few seasons it became more like WTH?! WTH?! WTF?!  

And yet we kept watching anyway because, like my friend Kristi says, WE ARE FINISHERS!  What, should we have like, saved ourselves hours of life by not finding out the ending of a show we'd grown to feel ambivalent about? Psshhtt.

And then this one rolled around, giving the original creator a chance to finish it the way she'd always wanted to before contract stuff got messy and she left after season 6, and I knew I'd hop on that train.  And I did.  And I'm done.  And I have THOUGHTS.

*spoilers ahead, proceed with caution!*

Netflix

A decade after going off the air, the good people at Gilmore Girls still do not understand one simple truth:  marriage is better than sex.

Let the reader understand, I am not saying that marriage does not include sex. (Glory glory hallelujah to that one, am I right?) Or that marital sex is not awesome.  What I mean is that a committed, lifelong, faithful relationship based on mutual love and respect that includes, but does not revolve around, sex will be more gratifying, more fulfilling, and more conducive to emotional health than a lifestyle of following your panties into whatever feels good next.

Lorelai and Rory aren't "sluts". This isn't Sex in the City. At their best, they are endearing women with big hearts, they care deeply about those they love, and they generally want to do the right thing, romantic relationships included.  So why, oh why, are the romantic relationships on that show such a scorching hot mess?

I know, I know, at the very end of this 4 part series, Lorelai and longtime on-again, off-again boyfriend Luke finally get married.  And we are all super excited about this!  During the part where Luke says everything he should have said 11 years ago I wanted to dig out my old cheerleading uniform and pom poms.

This is exactly why we have all been watching the show for as long as we have, so good on ya, writers.  But honestly it's pretty clear that there was nowhere left to take this plot line. The ridiculousness had carried on long enough and Amy Palladino-Sherman basically had to marry off those lovebirds.

Netflix

Rory continues to disappoint sorely.  I want to like Rory; I want to respect her love of reading and writing, her sense of humor, the way she loves her grandparents.  But I just don't.  There, I said it.  She has made some of the worst choices I've ever seen a young female character make on a show: losing her viginity to a married ex-boyfriend, having a long term relationship with someone who treats sex like a handshake and surrounds himself with the most obnoxious clique imaginable, and finally carrying on an affair with an ex-boyfriend who is engaged to someone else.  And somehow she manages to feel like the innocent victim every single time.

PSA: when you're having an affair with an engaged man, you don't get to throw a pity party about staying in a hotel when his fiancee comes back into town.  NO ONE FEELS SORRY FOR YOU.

I just can NOT with you, Rory Gilmore.  I can't.

Netflix

{As an aside, can we just talk about what on earth Logan's problem is?  Homeboy has some serious psychological issues to deal with.  Why does he need to superficially feel like a savior when he is completely unwilling to do anything requiring true compassion, sacrifice, insert any morally positive adjective here?  And when the Apple Dumpling Gang or whatever the hell they are came back, I wanted to put a fork right through the eyeholes of their entitled, self-centered, scum of the earth gorilla masks.}

Emily and Richard were married 50 years before his death and while that's an appreciated nod to lifelong vows, you may not have noticed but they're not exactly the heroes in the story.  Theirs was a quintessential portrait of the general attitude of the show towards marriage: it's boring but respectable, and for the stuffy more than the liberated.

Although the transformation was welcome, I have to note that Emily does not really become a likable character until she "finds herself" after Richard's death. I can't decide whether the message was intentional.

Netflix

Paris is divorced, avoids interacting with her kids, and is convinced she's "in love" with a high school crush. After a decade of shows we briefly see Lane's dad on screen for the first time.  Liz and T.J. are still happily married, but have been roped in to joining a vegetable cult.  Because frankly, they're adorable but they're idiots.  See: married.

The only married couple who come across as halfway likable people are Lane and Zack, who continue to do uber radical things like play in a band together and actually enjoy their children.  Ironically, if you remember, they are the only characters who didn't have sex before marriage.  Which of course was presented as archaic.

I'm not shaming sex before marriage.  I wasn't a virgin when I got married (and likely half of you weren't either), though my husband was.  Honestly I wish I had been, but I was young and unsure of what I wanted.  Sex is sacred and mysterious, unitive and procreative, but it's not true that losing your virginity makes you "tainted goods".  You can still go on to have a beautiful, life-giving, redemptive marriage.  I'm proof of that.

Netflix

I'm also not saying that marriage guarantees anything, it doesn't.  It doesn't guarantee a healthy (or even faithful) sex life, it doesn't guarantee emotional health or guard against heartache.  I have enough friends who have been in the trenches to know that much.  I don't want to idealize something that is in fact often very hard.

But what Gilmore Girls misses entirely is that marriage and family life is the structure best suited for sexual intimacy.  It is meant to be a haven, a safe place.  Married life is a sacrifice, to be sure, but it is the one place that we are able to give of ourselves body, soul, and spirit, and reasonably expect to be treated with care.

This is something that Lauren Graham's other popular show, Parenthood, understood and conveyed perfectly.  This is why folks have a deep allegiance to that show and to the Braverman family.  This is why you absolutely cannot watch the last episode without dissolving your tears into a pint of Ben & Jerry's.  Because Parenthood believed that marriage and family is a good thing, that it's worth fighting for, sacrificing for, and resisting temptation for.  

Parenthood showed us what it could look like when people commit to each other and stick it through to the end.  That's what good television should do; it should propel us into truth, not halfheartedly offer us an ambiguous shrug of the shoulders and a "good luck, it's a cold world out there".  Because sure, maybe it is.  But that's all the more reason to have a refuge from the storm.

I can still watch Gilmore Girls and enjoy the coffee, junk food, adorable Stars Hollow with all its characters, pop culture references, and rapid-fire banter.  But in my mind, it missed the chance to be what it could have been, and it doesn't even understand why.



Also of interest: this piece at Christ and Pop Culture hit the nail on the head with a 20 pound hammer. So good.

Just Another Gift Guide

11/28/16

Are gift guides totally overdone at this point? I feel like they were super creative and exciting 5 years ago and now it's just... oh! again! really? I wasn't even going to add my voice to the noise, but Sunday afternoon I was perusing some of my favorite online shops and one thing led to another and well, here we are.  Don't hate me.

Most items are ethically sourced. Some links are affiliates and my family really appreciates you using them. Obviously things don't have to be gender-specific, these are just ideas!

For Men



Krochet Kids intl.
Empowering women in Peru and Uganda- I love this company and my brother in law was recently in Uganda with Love Does and got to pay Krochet Kids a little visit in person!  Today (Cyber Monday) the entire site is 40% off with free shipping! Crazy.


Fair Trade Certified and Organic Cotton - My whole family has been very pleased with the quality and fit from this company.  My husband has this shirt in blue and it's one of his favorites that he owns. He's also a big fan of their men's hoodie!  PACT's prices are really reasonable and today everything is 30-70% off!
Handmade and Fair Trade -  This journal is made from recycled newspapers, don't ya just love it? This fair trade website is slashing prices up to 81% for Cyber Monday!




A comprehensive look at U.S. history from the perspective of America's women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers. 
A fascinating and educating read.



The Narrative album by Sho Baraka
This Christian hip-hop album is where it's at: poetic language, catchy beats, and prophetic observations. I'm not an avid hip hop listener but I love it, and I think anyone with an appreciation for thoughtful lyrics will devour this one.
My husband also tells me Radiohead has a new album out this year.


For Women


Fair Trade Certified and Organic Cotton - Like I said, we've been very pleased with the quality and fit from this company.

Handmade by former gang members in Guatemala - Aren't these gorgeous? 
TRC is offering 20% off today!


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I just finished this and had to throw it in. A modern classic and well worth all the hype.



If the lady in your life is liturgically-minded, this thing is going to blow her mind. Not only does it have features of every good planner (calendars, to do list spaces, grocery list spaces, goals for the week, etc.), but it has all kinds of fun twists: feast day reminders, prayers, liturgical season beginning and end dates, and so much more. They truly thought of everything. Plus it's beautiful.


Okay, I'm not the kinda gal that wants a pressure cooker for Christmas, but I know they're out there because I keep keep KEEP on hearing people rave about this thing. They're on mega sale today on Amazon - like, a steal kind of sale. And special thanks to whoever already purchased one through my affiliate link. I really appreciate it!


For Baby


Holy moly I can't handle them.  Way to be, Uganda makers, way to be.

PACT Baby.
Fair trade and organic cotton, and Taavi's most complimented piece of attire.

Barefoot Books
Not just for big kids! Barefoot has some wonderful options for the non-mobile set too.


For Kids



I told you last week about how much I love Barefoot and their emphasis on inclusivity and emotional health. They have so much more than books- great options of crafts, cds, and games for kiddos!



Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World (Julia Rothman)
My friend Christina recommended this one to me and I'm eyeing it for my little 1st grade nature lover. Aren't the aesthetics lovely?



ALEX Toys Little Hands Button Art
Both of my boys have been crazy about this game as 2 year olds and honestly, Alyosha will still play with it now at 6.  Anything that can keep tiny hands busy for more than 30 seconds is a definite win, am I right?



TINKERTOYS
A timeless classic, and for good reason.
They get to invent and you get to hide in the bathroom and eat candy.


For Teens




You can't go wrong with a beanie or headband from Krochet Kids. Promise.










Okay, I don't have teens yet and it's been awhile since I was one. But these funky finds from Uncommon Goods seem like a pretty great place to start!

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Happy Cyber Monday friends!  I hope you find something just right for your loved ones this year. And thanks again for considering using these affiliate links or the Amazon ad on my sidebar.

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