Monday, December 5, 2016

December Scripture Writing

oh dear oh dear oh dear!

I forgot to share the December Scripture writing plan . . . In true December fashion I'm a little busy (read: busier than I have been in awhile at least) and I completely forgot until this very moment.

Hopefully if there are those of you out there still on track, you knew to go to find it, if not, I sure am sorry for the delay! 

Meanwhile, I have decided to get a headstart reading straight through the Bible. I was planning to start in January and then decided since I wasn't getting the writing done anyway, that there was no good reason to wait. 

Also, one of the reasons I've been busier is because I'm working on a new year's surprise which will hopefully hopefully hopefully be ready at least in the next couple of months. 

I wish all my readers a wonderful Advent season and pray that we all finish 2016 strong!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hark the Angels Sing!

Hey guys,

I have never hated Christmas music, but I haven't always appreciated it either. This year I caught the spirit early on and am loving Christmas music maybe more than ever before. Could it be because it is something which is familiar, while everything else around me is rather new and foreign?

Anyway, I couldn't have picked a better year. At least three of my favorite artists have released new Christmas albums, and if you're into that kind of thing, I wanted to make sure you know about them. Whether you totally already caught the spirit of the season or maybe need a little help in that department, here's some music love.

 Josh Garrels / / The Light Came Down

One of my favorites is Shepherds Song but you have to listen to the whole album! Pretty AND pretty mellow, but I think if you like him, you will REALLY like him.

 Lauren Daigle / / Behold - A Christmas Collection

Hard to pick a favorite, but I think her voice is especially perfect for Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. LOVE the retro feel to this album.

JJ Heller / / Unto Us

JJ is one of the few artists I can say that I've seen in concert, even met, got her autograph, bought the t-shirt, the whole 9 yards. Her music is always sweet. AND DON'T MISS THIS IMPORTANT FACT: The link above is actually where you can download 9 of the 13 Christmas songs from this album. It may be for a limited time, so hurry and download. If you're too late, youtube! (Or I know she'd appreciate your support by buying the CD--I personally think it would make a great gift.)

What's on your playlist? Any other new albums I haven't heard about? What's your favorite, most replayed old one?

Monday, November 28, 2016

When Advent Swells the Heart

The Advent season is becoming increasingly more meaningful to me.

For a mixture of reasons it wasn't the most celebrated season and holiday in our home growing up, sometimes not celebrated at all. That isn't the tragedy it may sound to some, but has in fact perhaps helped me be more thoughtful in my approach to celebrating it now, and the traditions we may begin. It also helps me remember to let my faith define my Christmas, and not allow the day or season to be worshipped in and of itself. The holiday is by no means a centerpiece of my faith, but in fact, is quite solidly the opposite.

For a really long time I personally felt the season was overwhelming--Way over-commercialized and even, over-spiritualized. How much of a Christian holiday is it really anyway?-- was my line of thinking. 

But now, I guess it's accurate to say in one sense, I've been europeanized when it comes to Christmas. Or at least that my appreciation for it began to grow after my first Christmas here. Because slowly, over the last six years, I've embraced it more and more. While I don't have super deep reasons or explanations for that change in me, I do like to stop and acknowledge it. In some aspects, I've fallen in love in a romantic sense with the sweetness of the season. In other ways, I find more signficance in what is celebrated than I used to.

Here are some things I'm growing to love about my European Christmases (Which are both distinctively and not distinctively European, but are at least my version of a European Christmas).

Gifts are simpler. Many here would say they are getting more elaborate, but it still doesn't seem to me to be the scale I knew in the US.

Christmas markets. If we can't have these adorable booths selling handmade products and homemade food and mulled wine just for the sake of winter time, then I am glad we have this Christmas season so we don't have to live without Christmas markets.

Family time. This makes me both sad and happy at the same time. While I desperately miss my family especially during the holidays when so many others are with theirs, I love thinking about now, what are the little-but-filled-with-meaning traditions Ber and I can begin and pass on to our children? It's also a great time to pause and be thankful for family, no matter how spread out we are.

Lights. I love the simplicity and romantic atmosphere of white Christmas lights dangling over the old streets of our village and through out the bigger city's market squares. There was something about the colorful and elaborate displays I saw in the US which fascinated me as a child, but yet, it was all still somehow...overwhelming and even overstimulating to me.

Jesus as a baby. I saved this one for last because it has a two-fold description and needs more words. First, I don't emphasize this in every aspect of my celebrating as it still feels sometimes like this "reason for the season" is a reason which, if it didn't exist, we would still do 99% of what we do at Christmas. We would still like to give and get presents and enjoy the warmth and good feelings of Christmas. As for Christmas Day itself, if I am honest, I actually don't wake up thinking, "This is the day Jesus came into the world all those years ago!"

But. For the advent season as a whole, I have these last few years, been taken aback by little reminders with big meaning. Such as a phrase from a Christmas carol I've heard all my life, when it jumps out to me in a way like I've never heard it. Often words and cliche' phrases like "Joy to the World" are stopping me in my tracks and then echo in my mind through out the season. 

Because, for instance, how truly incredible is this joy I have through Christ, which was offered to us in this tiny little baby who grew up to die and raise again? And this one: "Peace on earth, goodwill towards men" O Lord, where is the goodwill amongst men? I can see so clearly right now in this chaotic world, peace can only come from You! 

These words and phrases are are coming alive to me and echoing the deepest cry of my heart as they speak of One who is supplying the deepest needs of this world! And somehow in the midst of Christmas carols, gift giving, goody baking, and familial love--which all feels a little surreal in this chaotic world-- this unexpected expectation and anticipation swells up in my heart as I imagine my Savior coming to this otherwise messed up world as a tiny humble baby, with a plan to save humanity. It touches me, washes me with gratitude and fills me up, more than ten Christmas Day feasts. 

So when I wish you a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays this year, this is what I am wishing you on top of wishing you happy and beautiful times with dear ones:

That the warmth of Christ's love would be strengthened in you this advent season. That the noise and busyness often associated with this time of year, would not drown out the simple, resonating message of hope being offered to you and to the world through this tiny babe. And that you may be filled with gratitude for Him coming as a tiny babe, while at the same time being filled with unmatchable anticipation for when He comes again as the perfect and just king of righteousness.

O day of peace that dimly shines
Through all our hopes and prayers and dreams,
Guide us to justice, truth, and love,
Delivered from our selfish schemes.
May the swords of hate fall from our hands,
Our hearts from envy find release,
Till by God's grace our warring world
Shall see Christ's promised reign of peace.

Then shall the wolf dwell with the lamb,
Nor shall the fierce devour the small;
As beasts and cattle calmly graze,
A little child shall lead them all.
Then enemies shall learn to love,
All creatures find their true accord;
The hope of peace shall be fulfilled,
For all the earth shall know the Lord.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November Scripture Writing and Other November News

November 1st!

It's here, and although it means less blogging, there are some things I'm really looking forward to this month.

A week from today we will fly away for our honeymoon. Wait until you see pictures and then try to guess where we went. Here's a hint: we aren't leaving Europe as originally planned. But, that doesn't narrow down the options much does it? We plan to unplug for that week, which, since we're flying out on election day I consider  to be impeccable timing. (Picture me: hands over my ears, singing "la la la la I don't hear you"). Let me live just this one week in denial.

Moving on to later in November, Thanksgiving will actually be celebrated this year by me, in contrast to last year when I was working and no one I crossed paths with that day even knew it was Thanksgiving in the US. Such a weird feeling, but this year, my friend comes from Hungary, and the three of us will celebrate with lots and lots of mashed potatoes and gravy and of course Gilmore Girls.  I am already giving thanks for Thanksgiving this year, and I am already very aware of all I will be thankful for on Thanksgiving this year. God has blessed my life with a wonderful man which you already know by now, but God has also miraculously cared for us.

By the way, I read an article the other day about how being grateful is actually proven scientifically to be good for your heart. It reminded me how we're told in God's word to give thanks in all things, and how every time God tells us to do something, it's as much for our good as His honor. Isn't He incredible.

Wait, there's more happening around here! I'm honing my web developing skills and look forward to, Lord willing and the thing don't crash, sharing a new project with you. I'm not sure yet when the launch date will be especially since this month is so full, but be sure and stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here is your November scripture writing plan. I had to steal from another series as I can't find the other one anywhere online, but since they aren't topical necessarily it shouldn't really matter. And hey look! Pumpkins! This month I started it back up and though I didn't ace consistency, this was still the tool which helped me stop all other activity and thought and focus my heart and mind on the Lord. An invaluable thing.

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