music for your saturday: the 2012 conclusion

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mumford makes the music I want to be listening to when the year turns or for that matter when the world ends. And Idris Elba? I can’t even. There are rumors he’s pegged to be the next James Bond. Yes, please, and thank you.

He happened to also direct this video. Which I can’t say for sure I completely understand, but who cares. Idris Elba.

top five things I will not miss in 2013

Thursday, December 27, 2012

1) the stomach flu

2) the stomach flu

3) the stomach flu

4) the stomach flu

5) the stomach flu

 

In conclusion, I declare 2013 to be the year of health and wellness. I will not succumb to the various viruses (virii?) and bacteria that enter our home. The vomit will end. Our washer and our steam cleaner will get a break. Thus it is written, thus it shall be.

advent conspiracy: love all

Sunday, December 23, 2012

AC_Love_WORDWhen Jesus loved, He loved in ways never imagined before. Though rich, he became poor to love the poor, the forgotten, the overlooked and the sick. He played to the margins. By spending less at Christmas we have the opportunity to join Him in giving resources to those who need help the most. It all boils down to love. Love from a savior. Love to a neighbor in need. By spending just a little less on gifts we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who really need help. This is the conspiracy three churches began a few years ago, and has since grown to an international movement where thousands of churches have raised millions of dollars to love others in life-changing ways. So, this isn’t a theory based on good intentions. It’s a movement that’s saving lives. This is our new tradition. One that can truly change the world.
(text from adventconspiracy.org)

This is the week that comes easiest and yet hardest at the same time. Everyone likes to talk about love at Christmas. It’s rewarding to fill up our Christmas food baskets, to make kits for the foster kids who come into care in our county, to put a check in the bucket at church to buy water filters for families in Haiti. It’s harder to actually DO the loving. To spend time with the poor and marginalized, go into their homes, sit on their stale smoke couches. It’s much harder to share life with the truly needy, to allow their pain to touch your life in a very personal way, to invite them into your homes for a meal or to live. It’s extremely difficult to give up your prejudices, your stereotypes, your judgment for people who don’t seem to deserve yet another chance, yet another check. Love requires sacrifice, and boy, is that not something we like to talk about this time of year. (or ever)

If there is anything Wendell and I want to pass along to our children above all else, it’s how to live a life a sacrifice. To consider others better than themselves. To never be content to just ‘concentrate on our own family’ or ‘put ourselves first’. Occasionally in life those things need to happen, I know. But I want it to feel uncomfortable. The true sweet spot of where they live their lives, the place where they feel most at home, most fulfilled, most alive – I want it to be when they spend their lives poured out for others. That’s my heart’s prayer for my kids.

It’s weird for me to spend the holidays with ‘just family’. (It so happens that this year, we’ve spent several holidays that way, and I can’t say that I care for it all that much.) My parents raised us with an open table, an open home, and open hearts. Their continued persistence to invite the immigrants, the orphans, the marginalized, and the lonely (and I mean all of those quite literally) into our home to share our table, share our family has influenced my life in such a tangible way.

Right now, our children need stability above nearly all else, and even as I feel disappointed that the consequences of that means that we spend much more time at home by ourselves than I would prefer, I realize that we are still opening our home. We share our family and our lives with a little boy who needs us desperately right now. I hope that these days are the memories that our children take away from their childhood. How we sacrificed ‘normal’ family life. How we skipped Christmas parties, spent countless hours in the car driving to and from visits, and focused our energies and love on the children that came to share our home over the years. There’s loss in this kind of life, yes, but there is so much reward.

AC_Love_ICONFor I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:35-40

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

Love all. It’s what Christmas is truly all about.

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This year, we focused most of our giving on things close to home: we made Christmas food baskets for people we know, for classmates and friends. We put together kits for kids who are entering foster care in our county because we know those kids. Those kids are our kids. Even our far-away giving is to a charity in Haiti, a country that has touched and engaged several members of our church in a very personal way. We really wanted our kids to feel connected – not to view this kind of stuff as charity. It’s not. This is obedience. We are the poor, the naked, the suffering – just the same as the people we gave to this year. I never want my children to think there’s an ‘us’ and a ‘them’. It’s all of us, together.

What are some of the ways that you are “loving all” this year? I’d love to hear ideas for the future!

music for your Saturday: give more

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mary's Song by Robbie Seay Band from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

advent conspiracy: give more

Monday, December 17, 2012

AC_Give_WORDGod’s gift to us was a relationship built on love. So it’s no wonder why we’re drawn to the idea that Christmas should be a time to love our friends and family in the most memorable ways possible. Time is the real gift Christmas offers us, and no matter how hard we look, it can’t be found at the mall. Time to make a gift that turns into the next family heirloom. Time to write mom a letter. Time to take the kids sledding. Time to bake really good cookies and sing really bad Christmas carols. Time to make love visible through relational giving. Sounds a lot better than getting a sweater two sizes too big, right?
(text from adventconspiracy.org)

This year, the truth that’s taking root in my heart turned out to be more appropriate for this year than I could have ever imagined: Incarnation. It started with this post by Kathy Escobar. And this quote:

God, with us. In the midst of our messy, beautiful lives.

Us, with others. In the midst of their messy, beautiful lives.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it all season. Still grieving from last week, still processing through that with my children, it’s the place where all of our conversations end up. God with us. The beauty of the gift of Presence.

AC_Give_ICONWe spend a lot of time and energy figuring out who we’re going to give to each year. This year, my focus has turned. How do we make our gifts match our lives? We don’t want to just be giving money because it’s Christmas or because we should be generous and charitable. We want the truth of our lives to reflect where we’re putting our money. We picked things this year that don’t separate us from ‘those people’ we’re helping. We want to teach our children the beauty of sacrificial living – the kind doesn’t keep our safe and pretty lives separate from the pain and ugliness of this world.

The truth and beauty of the incarnation is that at the moment we needed rescue, God could’ve reached down to us. He could’ve lifted us to be with him - safe, secure, free from messed up lives and an angry world.

That’s not the redemption he chose. He chose to come here. To be with us.

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”
Matthew 1:23

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”
John 1:14

God is with us. He came here. He didn’t take us out of this crazy, screwed up world. He came here. To the mess, to the violence, to the brokenness we’re all living in. He came here.

That’s the truth we talked about with our children. We don’t want to teach them that the way to help is to keep your distance and send funds. We don’t want to just give to people; we want to be with people. We don’t want to teach them that the right way to grieve and react to tragedy is to stay at home and live in fear. We want to send them out, even though we’re sending them into a dangerous, unpredictable place. We can’t shield them from the bad things. We can’t truly protect them from the evil in this world.

What we can do is promise them that they’re not alone. When we spend time with the “least of these”, we aren’t doing it alone. When we go out into a crazy world, we aren’t going alone. We can plant this truth in their hearts: that the God we worship loves us enough to come down to the dirty manger in the messy world to be with us. Even when it seems the dark is overwhelming, we know that Light has come down to this very world we live in. We know that Love wins.

God with us.

Emmanuel.


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music for your saturday: lament

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Another post was planned. This is all I have.

We need your grace, oh God. We’re begging you to come. We need your grace.

year-end friday fives: the music edition

Friday, December 14, 2012

my five favorite albums of the year:

1) Babel – Mumford and Sons
It took me a bit to decide, but this album is equally as good as the first. Better in some ways. Slicker, more polished, but the downside of that is it definitely sounds more produced. The wild explosive raucousness of their first album was one of my favorite things about it. However, that album didn’t make me cry everytime I played it like this one does. Something about these lyrics – call it emotional manipulation if you want – touches my soul. It’s a beautiful piece of work.

 

2) The Lumineers – The Lumineers
Terrific debut album. Considering it came out early in 2012, I’ve listened to this album probably more than any other over this past year.

 

 

3) Season One – All Sons and Daughters
My favorite new worship band. This is another make-me-cry-all-the-time album. Perhaps I’m hitting early menopause…too much crying around here.

 

 


4) The Carpenter – The Avett Brothers

There is not a single song on this album that I don’t enjoy. The last track, Life, is my very favorite. Part of me feels more attached to this album than others from this past year just by virtue of knowing their story. These guys are for real, and I think it shows in their music.

 

5) Some Nights – Fun.
I wanted to dislike this album. I want to dislike pop music in general, but I can’t. Loved the whole thing. In spite of lyrics which I think almost border on despair occasionally, you can’t actually tell that from the music itself. It makes me feel happy. Plus, I love to hear my kids singing ‘set the world on fire’ from the backseat.

 

What were your favorite albums from 2012?

clarity please?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Today when I picked up our boy from his visit at the potential-relative-placement’s home, he wouldn’t come to me. On Monday, he didn’t run to the door as he had the first few visits, and when I told him it was time to go, he put up his little finger at me and said, “NO.” Fine. I get it; you’re having fun here. But today…TODAY he wouldn’t even come to me at all. When I picked him up and put his coat on, he leaned back towards the relative and fussed. I let him give her a hug goodbye, but when I took him again – same story. When I put him in the car to go home, there was louder complaining still.

It’s good that he seems to be adjusting well there. We love that, but it’s frustrating and frankly, a little bit hurtful for me to experience. Why doesn’t he love us like he should? He should be overly attached to us at this point. He’s been with us over half his life, he’s barely even a toddler, and do you know how much I worked for this baby to love me? I sang him lullabies, I rocked him to sleep, I taught him to play peek-a-boo with his hands. I did Theraplay techniques with him. Silly games, lotion, feeding sessions. I worked for this baby’s love, and I finally thought we were getting somewhere. Yet he’s so quick to dismiss that. That’s more painful than I expected.

I’m not sure why he loves it there so much. Maybe it smells like home to him. Maybe there’s enough similarity in familial features that makes him feel comfortable. Maybe he knows it’s his little sister who lives there. Is that possible? Do toddlers recognize siblings even if they’re not living together? That seems like a stretch, but I can’t shake my questions about the situation. It all leaves me feeling a bit like we’ve done something wrong. Shouldn’t he want to be a part of our family? Shouldn’t he be afraid for me to leave him, eager for me to take him home? I’m left with this strange mixture of relief and unease, not knowing what his future is or what I should even be hoping and praying for.

Combine all of this with a weird call about increasing parental visits next week, and I’m just not sure where this all stands. We have a caseworker meeting on Friday and court next week – could you pray for our family and sweet Baby D? We need peace, and the people who make the big decisions definitely need clarity. I’m praying they can see the right path even when it’s all such a big mess. I’m praying that Baby D’s future is bright, that he will be somewhere where he’s loved and cared for, that somehow, even if his family isn’t healed right now that what we’ve sown into his little life will be building blocks for a healing future.

foster care - a broken hallelujah

Monday, December 10, 2012

This morning, I had put him in a nice button-up plaid shirt and jeans, rolled up the sleeves ‘cause he’s stylin’, ya know. Carefully chosen the brown suede boots (even though I prefer his classic brown Stride Rites) because they were from his mama. She gave them to me weeks earlier because she was afraid he’d outgrow them before he moved home with her. Halfway to the visit, I got the call. The one that I usually get much closer to the visit location. No mom and dad. Again.

I sympathize. I do. I cannot imagine what it is like to have your children removed from your home, have to visit them in a strange place, only get to see them once a week, supervised with your very own children. I cannot imagine the agony of giving birth and leaving the hospital without your baby. I get that this is hard. I get that poverty creates barriers and ways of thinking that I don’t understand because I didn’t grow up in that culture. But sometimes we have to do.the.hard.thing. Just do it. Even if it’s painful. Even if it’s inconvenient. Even if you feel your heart is going to break in two, you do the hard thing. Because your kids didn’t do anything to deserve this.

I’m loving this little boy who knows that he belongs with me, but with just as much certainty as he knows his name, he knows he doesn’t belong to me. I cannot comprehend why you wouldn’t make every effort to be there for him. I would walk barefoot across broken glass if that was the only way to see my children, to hold them close, to tell them I love them, I’m working for them, I’m praying for the day we can be together again. I just don’t get it.

I’ve been prepping to say goodbye to this precious little boy. Praying that I would say goodbye because he gets to return to spend his life with the mama that he loves. Now I’m not sure. DJFS isn’t sure. I think it’s more likely he’ll go to the relative he’s started visits with, but once again, uncertainty looms large over our entire situation. This is the part I hate. We already told the kids he’s leaving. Last week, following our team meeting, it was sounding like it could be six more months. Today, I’m not certain if it’ll be six more months or six more weeks or six more days. All that I am sure of is that this little boy deserves an answer to the situation. He deserves to be with his baby sister. He deserves to be loved above all else, to be made a priority in someone’s life.

I picked up the little brown boots, discarded beside his car seat on the way home. I got him out of the car, hugged him tight, kissed his head, tears welling up yet again. Broken with this sweet boy and his unknown future, his absentee mama and daddy. Hallelujah for the work we do for the healing of his family. Broken with the bittersweet pain of loving him. Hallelujah for the redemption of teaching him to love us back. Broken with the expectation of hope, yet unfulfilled. Hallelujah because He who promised is faithful.

 

linked with Prodigal Magazine and SheLoves Magazine today

advent conspiracy: spend less

Sunday, December 9, 2012

AC_Spend_WORDQuick question for you: What was the one gift you remember getting for Christmas last year? Next question: What about the fourth gift? Do you remember that one? Truth is many of us don't because it wasn't something we necessarily wanted or needed. Spending Less isn't a call to stop giving gifts; it's a call to stop spending money on gifts we won't remember in less than a year. America spends around $450 billion dollars during the Christmas season, and much of that goes right onto a credit card. By spending wisely on gifts we free ourselves from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a full heart. We’re asking people to consider spending less this Christmas (maybe buying one less gift-just one). Sounds insignificant, yet many who have taken this small sacrifice have experienced nothing less than a miracle: They have been more available to celebrate Christ during the advent season.
(text from adventconspiracy.org)

This week continues to be the most difficult of the weeks when it comes to the new way we, as a family and congregation, focus on Christmas. Part of it is because gifts are my love language. Part of it is because the true religion in America is consumerism, and I am not immune to its charms. Part of it is because there is such joy in giving to others, and I don’t want to miss out on that.

But it’s not that I’m saying ‘no gifts’. We still give gifts. Our kids get three each – one for reading, one for wearing, one for playing. Or as I read on a blog earlier this year, “The Baby Jesus only got three gifts. Are you better than the Baby Jesus?” (Apologies if you wrote that – I can’t, for the life of me, remember where I read it.) All that’s being said here is “spend less”.

For me, this is about where I place my allegiance. Is it with the religion of consumerism that permeates our culture? Or is it with the Kingdom of God? My striving, if I allow it to take its natural bent, will always end up towards comfort and leisure and my American rights/freedoms and bigger houses and well-behaved children and more and more stuff and on and on and on. That’s not the upside-down Kingdom that Christ calls me to be a part of.

His kingdom is one of sacrifice. Self-denial. Giving to others. Hanging on to our comfortable, safe lives with all of its luxuries and stuff is not part of the deal.

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Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?
Matthew 16:24-25

 

Turning from my selfish ways? That’s a requirement I’d rather leave behind.
Take up your cross? Not the most attractive of ideas.

But saving my life? That’s the kind of thing I can get behind. That’s the kind of thing that will help me say no to all the selfishness, say yes to the sacrifice, and follow Christ all the way, every day.

Let go. Give in. Give up. Surrender. (thank you, Ben Lee)

That’s where it’s at this Christmas and all year long.

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Do you do anything intentional regarding spending and gift-giving at Christmas? I’d love to hear your family’s practices and traditions.

music for your Saturday: worship fully

Saturday, December 8, 2012

first friday–the advent of the best-of lists of 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

No secret to some of you, one of my very favorite things is  the best-of year-in-review lists that proliferate around December. Instead of a regular friday five during December, I’m going to spread out my best-of lists over the next few weeks. Maybe I’ll squeeze a few more in at the end of the year, but you can definitely count on them on Fridays.

Since we’re not that far into December, today is my 5 favorite Christmas albums this year. Note: not all are new. Second note: all are worth every penny I paid for them.

1) Hymns of Christmas – Jennifer Knapp and Margaret Becker
I have a tremendous crush on Jennifer Knapp. She sings like a beautiful angel. An alto angel, at that. Margaret Becker – the same. This is classic and timeless, and I’ve been listening to it over and over again.

 

 

 

2) December, vol. 2 – Robbie Seay Band
If you only buy one of these songs, buy Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, which is set to the tune of Come Thou Fount, which is my favorite hymn. All that is true. This is a great little EP.

 

 

 

3)Noel – Various Artists
This little album was spearheaded (I think) by Derri Daugherty and Steve Hindalong. They also did the City on a Hill projects, for those who know those albums. This one is better than ANY of the City on a Hill albums. I would say, without a doubt, that this album gets the most play year after year of any of my Christmas albums. It’s not been reissued yet, but you can get it for pretty cheap from a used Amazon seller.

 

4) http://www.relevantmagazine.com/sites/default/files/field/album_art/XMAS_VOL2_FINAL.jpgA Very Relevant Christmas/Volume 2
A free gift only for subscribers, this album is really well curated and a pleasure to listen to. Full of indie artists like Sugar & the Hi-lows, Matthew Perryman Jones, and Paper Route – click the album cover to subscribe today if you’d like a copy (plus you get 3 other albums throughout the year).

 

 

 

5) Amy Grant – Home for Christmas
Nobody does Christmas like Amy. This is my favorite of her Christmas albums. I sometimes listen to it when it’s not Christmas time. Shh…

 

 

 

What are your favorite Christmas albums, new or old?

advent conspiracy: worship fully

Monday, December 3, 2012

My goal was to publish my Advent posts early Sunday mornings, but instead I decided to do my final editing Sunday afternoon. As a result, my initial writing seemed a bit derivative after listening to the sermon Sunday morning – my editing was definitely a bit more severe as a result. (Thanks for that, Pastor Andy.) Of course, when you do Advent (basically it’s the 4 weeks before Christmas where we prepare for the ‘coming’ of the baby Jesus) the same way, year after year after year, it is only natural that certain themes are going to echo throughout.

Once again, we’re doing Advent Conspiracy for the Christmas season. I love the focus it gives my season. I love the message it plants in my heart and in the hearts of my kids. I love this new tradition.


AC_Worship_WORDIt starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.
(text from adventconspiracy.org)

When most church people say ‘worship’, they mean singing and praying together, typically on a Sunday morning. I spent a few years in fairly charismatic churches; there is a lot of joy in the worshipping freely through song and prayer and dancing and just being together with other believers. Those things are important and meaningful, but the older I get, the more I know of God, the more I realize that my very life is worship to Him. My everyday life. “The liturgy, the laundry, the women’s work” as Kathleen Norris puts it. The dailiness of all that threatens to wear me down combined with the sharp pain of all that threatens to pull me under. These are the moments when my worship becomes real. Even though I still long for the occasional high of an emotional worship service, I’m learning what it means to worship daily with my whole life, my whole self.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, AC_Worship_ICONordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
Romans 12:1-2

This Christmas season is turning out to be more painful than most, but that very pain is what’s driving me to my knees every single day. It’s not just about saying goodbye to part of our family, it’s about letting go in a hundred other daily ways. Sacrifice. Can I let go of the things I hold most dear? Can I relinquish control – not just in a grand scheme way, but in a day by day, moment by moment way? The Advent Conspiracy icon for this week’s theme is a person with arms outstretched, lifted up, hands open. I am challenged every time I look at it. Are my hands open? Or am I clenching them shut with all I hold dear inside? What does it look like to live a life poured out for my Savior, poured out for others?

This week, as I begin to walk my children through this Advent season, we’re talking about what it means to live our lives as worship. To give sacrificially, to recognize the redemption in the everyday. Fully surrendered. All to Him.

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Part of our family worship is a daily Advent activity. This year, we’re using the Jesus Storybook Bible Advent reading schedule. I’m also using a Jesse Tree calendar with my older kids. I’m attempting to incorporate our Advent Conspiracy themes in the middle of those templates. We’ve been spending everyday conversation talking about the theme for the week, lighting the first Advent candle together, and filling our home with the music of the Season. Do you celebrate Advent? Do you observe it as a family? If so, what are your plans for this year?

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