I like to call this first segment "When Two Worlds Collide." It turns out the fabulous Mrs. Fulwiler and I were both Aggie Class of '99. Meaning if she attended commencement, we both sat through those same three (grueling) hours in the same physical location. Fascinating! It really IS a small world, Walt Disney.
Christmas is a real struggle for me to be open to generosity, mostly because I feel guilty about having people spend a lot of money on me...or for asking for things that are expensive. This is true of other gift-giving occasions as well, of course. The Hubs and I set a limit for ourselves to buy just one gift for each other. Christmas fail. We both could not keep to that limit. There was definite scaling back, but both of us just happened to see little things that made us think of the other, so we ended up with two main gifts and a variety of stocking stuffers. My mother in law is a really huge gift-giver. While I am sometimes a little overwhelmed in not the best way, I have learned that this is how she shows her love and affection - it is her love-giving language...quite literally. Of course, she lavished us all with gifts, me most of all based on a glitch with my wish list (which included some jewelry that was supposed to go on another list). I love every one of them and am trying very hard to overcome the guilt of knowing how much must have been spent. I am underneath it all so very grateful for the many ways in which she blesses us, not just materially, but with her love and support as well. We are richly blessed this Christmas and always. I'll be back next week with my five favorite material things I received. Gotta save something for later, right?
I will share my favorite gift that I gave this year. For the Hubs' gift(s), I went with a bit of a theme. We are both lovers of religious art and icons, and after "winning" the retablo style icon on retreat, and inspired by Britt's icon wall, I went on a hunt for religious art and icons of different styles. Who wants a monotonous art wall, after all? Etsy is my best friend for this. Etsy may be a bad habit, but I just can't quit her/him. I found a few small pieces which I was going to box up as my "one gift" for him, and then I ran across this:
|Vintage 1910s Vespers Book artwork depicting the flight into Egypt|
I couldn't resist - we had seen pieces like this at the DIA and it was just stunning. I thought about keeping it for his birthday, which is in February, but ... it is in February! Y'all - I cannot sit on anything that long! So, this became his second gift. It is definitely just as awesome as the seller described it to be. It was mucho fun to think out of the box/wishlist for his gifts this year. With a Gaffigan stocking stuffer to boot, I think the Hubs made out just fine...as did I for the record.
I have shared my love of Amazon.com here. Just to be sure we all know I am impartial and not on the dole just yet, I will also share my one pet peeve: the price fluctuation. Remember how I said I have trouble asking for expensive things? Well, I searched long and hard for a new dutch oven that was quality and affordable. I hit the jackpot finding a great brand under $40. Wouldn't you know it was quite a bit more than that when Christmas rolled around? Now it back down to under $40. I shake my fist at you Amazon. I shake my fist. In other news, they have some stellar customer service. My BIL ordered something with his Prime membership shipping that ended up being rerouted and quite delayed in delivery. Before he could even compose an email, he received a note from Amazon acknowledging their error, giving him a gift card and refunding shipping (though we are curious to see how a Prime shipping is returned). So, I only shake one fist at you Amazon.com. The other hand's giving you a high five.
Darkness. We do a lot of talking about the light as we approach Christmas and in this season. Unfortunately, a great many people are so immersed in darkness that they don't experience Light. Sadly, we have lost another lovely soul to a battle with depression. Religious platitudes don't help here. She was a light. She tried to know Jesus. The disease won. That horrible, debilitating illness won. While I'm no statistician, I feel like we are reaching epidemic proportions of people losing battles with depression. We are reaching epidemic proportions of people thinking that death is a better alternative to life...that their life is not worth living. Sure, we could go into a tirade about how it is endemic in a society in which life continues to be devalued, how we live in a culture of death. While it is true, it doesn't help to bring back those lost souls. It doesn't help someone who is suffering from an illness that clouds their vision restore their sight. It's not about raising awareness, or raising money - it is about getting our hands dirty.
Those losses need to spur us on to love the hell out of everyone in our lives so they know that just their mere existence on this planet is of tremendous importance, no matter the darkness and no matter the disease. We have to look beyond the surface - we have to rekindle true intimacy. To be intimate friends so we know when someone is hurting despite their outward appearance. To know that when someone is hurting they need help, and if we cannot give them that help to reach out and connect them to people who can. I know I have limits to what I can offer, especially with a young family at home. I've been blessed to be connected to people who can give a lot more and do so quite selflessly. Know those people if you can't be one of them based on where you are in life. But love. Just love. Love tirelessly. When you fail to love, start over and love some more. Bring them Jesus, but know you are not the Savior. Sometimes darkness doesn't want to give way. When we lose, love even harder so we are that much closer to winning the next battle.
I spend a lot of time musing in my mind about whether the whole blogging thing is worth the time/effort with a small readership. This Advent and Christmas I realized that while I would love to build my readership, what I love about having started this venture is the community. In my young adult ministry days, I would try to explain until I was out of breath the very real and tangible nature of virtual friendships to a population that dismissed such a connection had real value. This community of faith filled writers, mothers, disciples and women (and some men too) have inspired in me a deeper thirst for our Lord, a greater desire to love my family and the world more selflessly, ways for me to serve more joyfully in the little ways instead of being stunted in giving while waiting for grand gestures, and to shed my insecurities to live more boldly as the woman God intend me to be. I am, as we all are, a work still very much in progress, and my pride gets the better of me as I want to give up instead of build up a readership, but I know I am in the right place because I see the small fruits of grace in my life. Thank you, fellow bloggers, for offering yourselves, your families, and your faith in this community. (Update: Evidence of these ties that bind - Hallie is posting the link up for Jen who is sick. Tell me how friendships don't grow through any resource God gives us again?)
One of my favorite fruits of
- Keeping the Christmas cards we receive in a basket through the year so we can pick one every night and pray for those who sent it. (I think this was a Team Whitaker tradition.)
- Wise Men ADVENTures as an Elf on the Shelf alternative. Though we weren't really looking for a substitute, the Hubs loved this idea of having the wise men from our nativity set wander the house through Advent (and really through Epiphany) and creating a story of what they saw/did on their way to Jesus. I saw this on a few blogs, so I am sorry I can't remember where I saw it first to give credit.
- Sharing scripture at every family dinner. Ann Voskamp shared this tradition from her husband's family whereby they break open the word (the bread), as they enjoy their family meal so no one leaves the table without being fed body, mind and soul. Love, and with a Scripture scholar in the making at home (not me), I'm sure he could come up with something for each night. Not exclusively an Advent tradition, but one that would definitely make an impact on our prayer lives through the year.
- Un-doing Advent. While we loved the new traditions we started this year and built on from years past, I loved Bonnie's post on not worrying about the "doing." It seems I didn't so much listen to my own reflection from the Advent by Candlelight where I spoke about resting with our Lord in preparation to receive Him. We definitely simplified this year, but I am prone to getting caught up in the doing.
- O Antiphon crafts with the kids. Rosie at A Blog For My Mom posted their craft ideas and my "doing" side fell in love for next year. This year we made baby Jesus on the last day, but that was about it. A craft or activity per day that last week of Advent for the kids to really engage in the meaning of who Jesus is would be awesome, provided it doesn't become a stressful endeavor. In that case, I'll have to revisit Bonnie's blog.
And a bonus, just to add some light to your day to balance out that short rant on darkness, here is what the Hubs sent me while I was at work yesterday.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary - praying Jen is feeling better soon!
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