For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth. Colossians 1:16

Monday, December 17, 2012

I really love the season of Advent.  There are many reasons for that, including: I love Christmas decorations and music, it is a season of preparing for something so wonderful I still cannot comprehend it all, it brings hope.

One of my favorite songs is O Come O Come Emmanuel, particularly the Sufjan Stevens version.  I've been thinking of that song a lot lately, and last night I ended up listening to it on repeat for a solid half hour.  But really, have you looked at those lyrics?  Here's the first verse, taken from the Covenant hymnal:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

God's people, Israel, is still separated from their freedom to live in community with God fully.  They are waiting for the Messiah, the Savior, to come and bring them away from their captor and restore them to the unity with God that He intended for them.  And even in their captivity, they can rejoice because they know and they have the true hope that this Savior, Emmanuel- God with us- will come for them.

Verse 2:

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Day Spring.  The beginning, the first light, the dawn.  In light of recent tragedies especially, how desperately do we need the dawn to come?  To forever chase away the clouds that darken our eyes and dampen our spirits, to not be in fear of suffering or dying, how much do we long for that?  What hope that is!  I don't even know how to explain the beauty of true hope.  Hope that things will not stay as dark as they are.  Hope that healing will come with the light of the new day.  Hope that nothing can separate us, ever, from the love of God.  Rejoice!  It is coming.

 Verse 3:

O, come, thou Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Bring Your wisdom to us, LORD.  While we, the people of God, are still walking in the night, we need guidance on where to go, and how to go there.  I don't just mean literally walking, but in our actions and words.  When the Israelites were leaving Egypt, didn't God go before them in fire and in smoke so they could see the way to go?  They didn't know exactly where they were going, but they knew that God was leading them somewhere better.  They had true hope that God would bring them to where they were meant to be.  He gave them, on the way there, guidance on how to live so that they would stay within the presence of God.  Rejoice!  He still does that, and it is coming!

Verse 4:

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Unite us in Your love, in Your truth.  Remove our disagreements, our prejudices, the things that tear us apart rather than make us one to stand in Your Presence and be protected and saved from the enemy.  Be yourself our King of Peace, so that we have neither fear nor pain, just as You promised in Revelation.  Rejoice, O Israel!  He is coming! 

Seriously, this song if so full of the promises that God gave- and gives- throughout the Bible.  He holds to those promises and He's not going to let us stay in darkness forever.  He's going to save us and bring us to His Kingdom to be eternally with Him.  And it started long, long ago, and came together in the birth of Jesus Christ.  That is what Advent is about: preparing for Him who rescues us from the darkness.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

O, Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
How lovely are your branches!

Well, this is my first year as a real adult for Christmas, and I must say, as much as I love the French, I'm seriously disappointed they don't often decorate their houses!  On December 8th, there's a tradition of putting up lights and candles n the windows, but it's usually just for that night.  So, I don't have lights on my house, and I have yet to buy garlands for the banister, though I'm planning on it, but I DID buy my first Christmas tree!

I decided to go with a little guy that I found at Au Chan.  There's such a vast difference in the sizes of small trees available; it was either one five feet tall, or a little nugget of a tree, holding itself tall at 60 centimeters.  I went with the latter.  Now, what's funny about this one is that it is most assuredly meant for kids.  How do I know this?  It came with ornaments, and the three choices of ornaments were Disney princesses, Disney's Cars, or classic Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.  I figured that the classiest of these was Mickey and Donald.  And so, for my first grown-up Christmas, I have a Disney-themed, two-foot high tree, and I must say, I love it!

This year, as an early Christmas gift, my parents gave all of the kids something we have never and, but (at least I) have always wanted: stockings!  All growing up, we never had stockings, so the idea of "Stocking Stuffers" is entirely lost on me.  I have hung mine, handmade by my awesome Mom, with care, not by the chimney, but on the window handle in my living room.  It even matches the purple furniture!  How perfect is that?

Monday, December 10, 2012

On Thursday, I had the great joy of receiving two wonderful guests into "my" house.  One of my friends from college has been studying abroad this semester, and in her final weeks, she decided to travel with a friend.  A month or two ago, Kyla asked me if they could come and visit me for a few days, and boy was I overjoyed to say yes!  I love having people over, cooking for them, hanging out with them, and I was so excited for the chance to continue the hospitality that this house has long offered. 

On Thursday, we made dinner, drank hot chocolate and watched a movie.  Very chill, very lovely.On Friday, we got up early for a cinnamon roll pancake breakfast.  Kyla and Kaylen were generous enough to clean up breakfast as I took a little rest (I've been sick this past week) and then we were off to see the Christmas market in town.  We wandered about, looking at the delicately painted nativity sets, stuffed animals, ornaments, smelling the delicious cinnamon apple cider, vin chaud, and of course the churros and waffles that come out at these markets.  It may have started to sleet, but it was a marvelous way to spend the morning.  After lunch, we made over 200 cookies for the Kid's Club on Saturday, and as they were baking, Kaylen read The Hobbit out loud to us.

The Kids Club was so much fun, decorated with all kinds of lovely Christmas ornaments and garlands.  The kids who came seemed like they and a really good time: playing with each other and the volunteers, balloon battles, enjoyed a magic show and a puppet show, doing Christmas crafts.  So, so much fun.  When we had finished up, one of the little nuggets from the church tried to get one of the puppets out from behind the stage, so I went and grabbed it.  I started to make it talk to her and oh, how she was surprised!  The fact that the puppet was about the size of her didnt help, but the other kids started to play with it too, talking to it, even giving it hugs!  It was so, so much fun.  Kyla and Kaylen had fun balloon battling with the kids (something you can do in any language), and they were a great help setting up the snacks and making it look pretty.  After the club, we pulled a total American dinner and devoured two pizzas, chips, and cookies.  We got things ready for the Agape after church and just chilled the rest of the evening.

In traditional French style, the Agape after church lasted until about 4:30-5, and after getting things back in order, we finally headed home around 6.  I can't imagine that happening in the States, and it is so much fun!  I remember it being such a shock when I went to one two years ago, but I have definitely come to love them very much.  Being full of food, when we got back to the house, we rested a bit and as Kaylen finished up some assignments, Kyla and I played round after round of a Dutch Blitz.  My goodness, I love that game!  We found that the game went far too fast with just one deck each, so we doubled the decks.  Now THAT was quite a game.

It was such a wonderful weekend, full of laughter, friends from home, loved ones from church, and God's many blessings.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I have an amazing family whom I love with all my heart.  This past weekend, my family increased to include a new sister-in-law, and oh, what a blessing that is!  I absolutely loved being with my family and some good friends from the States.  Now, the downside about having gone back for the wedding is that I was reminded how much I love my family, which made it very tearful to leave again.

The first flight wasn't too sad though, because I knew that my friend Julie was waiting for me in Chicago to take me out to lunch.  When she pulled up, though, I received a fantastic shock or bliss to see that my dear friend Jenny was in the car with her daughter Charlotte.  During my last semester of college, I had the joy of hanging out with that cute little now-two-year-old, and I've only seen her twice since then!  We went out to Chipotle, laughed, and talked, and then they brought me back to the airport where I bought my second Starbucks of the day.

As I was waiting for takeoff, I felt the tears coming, and as I saw the faces of loved ones going by in the photo album of my mind, I pulled out my journal that I use for praying in color, and I just started praying for the people I was leaving.  By the time I closed my journal, I was well into the flight and I was no longer tearful.  It was a wonderful weekend, and why would I cry because I had spent time with people I love?  Now, I'm or saying that I'll never miss my family and friends, nor that I will never cry again (we all know THAT will never happen), but I'm just saying that instead of crying because I miss someone, praying for that person is a much better thing to do.