December 24, 2015

That Thing I Do Now - Vol 121 (An Early Holiday Edition)

Merry Christmas Eve!

I know this is coming to you a few days early, but let's be honest - there will not be much blog reading (or writing) going on over the next few days! So in order to still hook you up and take a little holiday break myself, this comes to you a little early... like a gift you can open before Christmas Day!

Featured this week are Advent and Christmas posts by Emily P. Freeman, Tresta Payne, Aliza Latta, Christie Purifoy, Kris Camealy, Graham Cooke, Ashley Larkin, Shannan Martin, plus a post from right here, and - of course - a video to wrap it all up! 

Happy Reading! (Ya'll know to click on the authors' names below to read the entire post, yes?)

* We will start this week, with Emily P. Freeman offering A Prayer With Those Who Don’t Feel the Wonder...
"Christmas is near and we are still waiting.

We carry within us a tension, pulling between our longing to sit still in quiet darkness and the temptation to rush ahead to the celebration.

But many of us secretly, silently, don’t feel like celebrating.

While some clap along to Joy to the World, we have to leave the room.

Some wear necklaces with colorful lights that really blink, and we smile but we don’t see the point.

We aren’t judging those people who are happy and twinkly. We simply can’t relate right now.

We feel a twinge of shame that we can’t fully join in.

Instead of entering into this new mystery, we try to search for that sense of familiar wonder again.

Where has it gone? What is wrong with us?

But perhaps this year, You aren’t birthing wonder in us. What then, Lord?

We confess all the ways we are trying to tell You how to reign. Open us up to how You might want to be born in us anew today.

You came to establish Your kingdom and here we are trying to build our own. But all our bricks are crumbling to dust and we desperately need Your hand.

The thing is, for many of us this Advent season has ushered in some unexpected challenges, heartbreaks, and disappointments. We are experiencing a restlessness we didn’t expect.

But isn’t that how You came? In ways we didn’t expect?"

* This post by Tresta Payne with Failing at Advent... 
"We tried to observe Advent one year. We had a Jesse Tree, we hung the ornamental pictures each day, and we read the words each night that anticipated Jesus’ coming.

It was beautiful and lovely and sentimental and we made it a week, I think.

Necessity might be the mother of invention, but I am the mother of good intentions. So many of them.

The thing about intentions is they don’t complete. They don’t have a finish. We call them intentions because we intend to show a good start and a willing heart but they fall short, and drag us down with them.

Attempting to add a new routine for 4 weeks of the busiest season of the year has proven to be an utterly ridiculous idea for us. As much as we want to slow down and savor and remember, we are failures at adding any formal Advent celebration.

It makes me sad, but it shows me who I really am, too.


We all know about waiting."

* This one from Aliza Latta with On the week of Christmas...
"I was going to write a benediction, like I did last year during this week before Christmas. Truth is, I don’t feel much like writing one of those.

Our traditions may be changing this year. Rain is falling now instead of snow. The days are mild and the nights are cool, but the carols ring out incessantly, and I decide that I need them to keep playing. Sometimes I need songs to sing over and over and over again, until I finally succumb to their hopeful message.

Sometimes I just need to give in and let myself hope..."

This post by Christie Purifoy with If we make it through December…
Each December I think it will be different. This will be the year I shake my winter melancholy. This will be the year my delight grows day by day. These are days of ornaments and sugar cookies and twinkling lights. Aren’t they supposed to be happy?

But this year is much like every other year. The ornaments shatter, the cookies crumble, and those new LED bulbs cast a cold-hearted glow.

More than ten years ago, I spent a few December days watching my friend’s little girl. My friend was in the hospital laboring to deliver a baby boy whose heart had already stopped beating. Over the weekend, I took care of another little girl who has no idea her parent’s hearts are broken.

All weekend, in the background, Over the Rhine was singing, “If we make it through December we’ll be fine.”

This was going to be the year I would look on the bright side, but I have just about accepted that there is no bright side in December. Only darkness and the pin-prick lights on the Christmas tree, and tonight is the longest night.

This post by Kris Camealy with MAKING ROOM...
The house is a mess right now. It looks like someone picked it up, shook it like a snow globe and set it back down again. I am spun right dizzy and wondering if the dust will ever settle.

I spent three good hours in the middle of the day trying to dig through to the other side of my crafting corner. The mess in that space, a little nook created with love by my husband, several Christmas eve’s ago, is an apt reflection of my insides. I’ve been stuffing life in for months, pushing against deadlines, appointments, school work, house work, and on and on…I’ve pushed it all to the back, stacked dangerously high and now, it threatens to collapse at any  moment.

It’s exhausting, digging through this mess, I’m tempted to put it off again.

Four bulging trash bags later, and you can walk into the space without tripping. I breathe relief, as I can at last see the floor. I am embarrassed at how bad it has gotten– how I have neglected to care for this special room, gifted to me for my own creative purposes. I cringe at the similarities between the condition of my heart and this messy space.

I have so much and still, I fill the tiny cracks with more of everything else. Too many yes’s. Too many appointments. Too much doing, not enough being. I am overwhelmed by the need to make room...”  

* This one by Graham Cooke with Christmas is about Light.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” – John 1:5

"That single line sums up the enemy’s fundamental flaw, the one that trips him up at every turn. The enemy lives in darkness, defined as a place where God is not, which is also the handy scriptural definition of hell itself. Simply put, when Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” in John 8, he was describing a state of spiritual being that the enemy is forever denied. As a consequence of that denial, the enemy cannot see or understand the Light of the Lord, or anything that occurs within that arena.

The characteristics of living in darkness are misapprehension, blindness, ignorance and a lack of wisdom to cope with changes in circumstances. Living in darkness means a failure of perspective, not as a one-off, but as a habit. As a lifestyle.

Look at the enemy. He was so blinkered by his own darkness that while Jesus was on earth, he set about actually trying to convince people to kill Jesus, never for a moment suspecting that was part of God’s plan all along. But that’s darkness for you: completely dependent on the light for existence—and yet continually failing to understand what’s done in the light. Those in darkness are made vulnerable to a lack of perspective like that. It means being out of the loop on a grand scale.

Light is essential to a life in the Spirit.

Isaiah 9:2 tells us that “the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness a light has dawned.” That great light is the one we are celebrating right now, with Christmas. He was the light of the world, and the very light he brought to Bethlehem two thousand years ago is the same light that he brings to us today. As we are in Christ, the revelation of His light is with us. We can see in the dark.

The thing about the light of revelation is that it illuminates every cobwebbed corner, every nook and every cranny."

* This post from my sweet friend Ashley Larkin with A Ragged Miracle...
“Hey, honey. Can you come here? Which one is for the basement?”

“Um, that one,” I pointed. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure. That one.”

When he’d prepped the trees – the one for the basement by lopping off the top (the quickest, end of a long road trip solution to get it down the narrow staircase and clear the low ceiling), Michael brought in the tree I’d identified as the living room tree – and I realized my mistake.

It was a short squatty thing, barely six feet tall. We swapped with the other tree – our living room tree, now lopped off.

A sad, sorry sight.

Slightly dejected, we sat down to dinner and tried to come up with a solution.

Flash forward a few hours, then another day to an elevated stand that brought the height of the originally-intended living room tree up another eight inches, followed by our ingenious idea to screw the cast-off top back to the tree.
Now the tip-top lilts to the right, a (not-surprisingly) off-green color. Perhaps sensing the oddness of its portion of tree, the top light strand often doesn’t go on with the others. So we jiggle at them, which sometimes springs them into action. Combine this with the saggy front, and it’s definitely the year of our own Charlie Brown-esque fir.

Somehow this screwed-together, lean-topped tree, covered in treasured family ornaments and crowned with a watercolor and glittered star made by the girls, is a reflection of my own Christmas journey these last few years. During the season of Advent, I’ve moved from trying to create an ideal journey to the manger – attempting to absorb every good tradition into our own, trying to infuse magic into every piece of Christmas wonder – to simply receiving the good of what is. This wonky, off-kilter tree, the stories in its light, the base of the tree surrounded by the girls’ gifts to each other, the everyday of their bickering mingled with instrumental Christmas carols.

To my own surprise, I find myself searching for and storing away not only tender moments like Mary, but, too, the lilting, off-color imperfections, the sorrows woven right through the fabric of this season, this world. All continual reminders for why Jesus, the glorious light, need come."

* This post from Shannan Martin over at Flower Patch Farmgirl with Yellow and Red...
"Just like last year and the year before, I have neighbors sending me desperate text messages this week about eviction notices and loved ones who are slowly killing themselves before their eyes. I have friends hiding out in fear, nearly snuffed out by the oppression life deals them. There are people I love leaning hard toward chemical love, unable to believe the real kind stands right next to them, waiting.

Surprise, surprise.
Christmas is hard this year.

It's bright and warm and it is so, so sad. I fight back the temptation, just like always, to huddle up and pretend the problems banging on my door are not my own. I say I want a simpler way, pretending Jesus came to bring joy and forgetting that he also came to suffer life with us.

We get to taste all of it, with him at our table, along with whoever else happens to stop by.

Last night, after the Italian subs and the cheap, Wal Mart tokens of our unending love, we hit up a massive, subdivision lights display.

It was fun until it wasn't, and as we (finally) escaped and drove away, Silas said, quietly, "My heart feels yellow. Yellow means lonely."

We know Christmas is red and green. It's been ingrained in us since birth.

But do we have the guts to admit it's also kind of yellowish? Can we possibly bear all three?

His law is love and his gospel is peace.
He knew we'd spend part of life swimming in sadness and at war.

He didn't wave a wand and spirit it all away from afar. He came to bear it alongside us, and ultimately, to conquer it."

* This one from right HERE with A Few of my Favorite Things... Christmas 2015
"So... I wanted to write just a little something today to let you know that I am praying for you. Yes, you.  If you are reading this right now (which - hello... you are!) I am praying for you.

Maybe you too have been grasping for a bit of Wonder and Awe and coming up empty handed... maybe you are frazzled and racing through the month... maybe you are loving all the festivities and activities and are dripping in Christmas Cheer.  Whether it is one extreme or the other, or somewhere gloriously in between, I am praying that Christmas will come... that joy and hope and love will well up from deep inside and no matter your circumstances or situations, the Light of the World will light your path and glory will stream along the way.  

I wanted to share just a few of my Favorite Things this year... and invite you to share some of yours with me too!  Plus... well, a Giveaway, because who doesn't love giving away a gift of two just for fun?" (Click HERE to enter to win!) 

Lastly, we close This Thing up with a video each week and sometimes it is funny and sometimes it is worship...
This time --well, this time it's Singing... because, of course!  O Holy Night!

Merry Christmas!

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