Monday, November 24, 2014

Giving Thanks Tonight

This afternoon was terrifying!  I lost Isaiah.  I feel exhausted from the intensity of it, so I don't know how deep or articulate anything I write will be, but as we are now all safe at home together, I can't help trying to express how incredibly grateful I am.

First off, while we obviously have some things to work out with Isaiah (long story short, he ran ahead  of us and ran all the way back to our house--about a mile in total), on one hand, I feel grateful that a kid who was scared of so much when we moved here and has gone through seasons of feeling almost unable to deal with navigating life here, he seems to have some sort of crazy comfort and confidence in this place...HIS place.

Secondly, I am thankful for Nepal tonight.  There are certainly kind strangers in America, but you often see something go viral when there is a story of one person going out of their way to help a stranger.  Tonight, I was reminded of how people don't operate in isolation here culturally.  The shift can take some adjusting, but tonight, as I was quite quickly surrounded by a crowd of strangers, genuinely determined to help, I couldn't help be struck by this amazing aspect of this culture.  A man we have never seen telling my Dad to hop on the back of his motorcycle to drive up and down the road looking for our son.  Older kids and ladies scrambling to ask all around and search the area around us.  Several people pulling out phones and coordinating calling the police.  Not one, not two, but many, many people stopping to help.

And, last, but perhaps most significant to me, is my family, and by that, I mean not only my biological family but our "extended family" at CloudFactory!  My parents were with me, and I am so incredibly thankful for that!  Don't know that I would have ended up sane through any of it without them.  But, I have not, since high school, lived in the same town as my parents.  Since finishing college, I have lived quite far, and now, I live on the other side of the world.  God has always graciously provided beautiful community for us, and tonight was, in the midst of a horrifying experience, an incredible picture of what He has blessed us with here.  It didn't even register what was going on at first, as I walked back to the group of people that had gathered, within a few minutes of calling John at the office, and I saw a familiar face.  And, then another.  And another.  And, taking a few minutes to connect, I got a call from John that he had found Isaiah at home, and I realized that this huge group from the office had come specifically to look for our son!  They dropped what they were doing and instantly came to our aid.  Maybe you have that with your closest friend in the States?  Or, maybe a few?  But, literally, dozens of our friends were there, surrounding us.  Even after knowing Isaiah was found, some came back to our home to see him and just see and connect that he was ok.  That is not what just a co-worker, or even most friends, do.  That is what family does.

While I sit here tonight, exhausted but running it all back through my mind, words seem so inadequate to express the great gratitude I have.  I am SO thankful that my son is OK (though, if you see him on a leash, don't be surprised!)!  And, I am thankful for the amazing and very humbling display of the great blessings of people who surround us here!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Inside Out

I am an introvert.  I am an internal processor.  I'm convinced that is one of the things that keeps from doing well at actually blogging because I either mull things over in my head at length and feel that it is just so much extra work then to write them down, or I try to discipline myself to just write and not self-edit or analyze as I go, but then I am plagued by analyzing it over and over again after it is "out there."

It is also one of the things that haunts me about my conversations in life as well.  It might be easier and fit better if I was quiet or shy because then I would be in my comfort zone of processing everything internally and only occasionally sharing the results of such processes.  But, somehow, I ended up being a talkative introvert.  An internal processor who likes to talk.  What a weird combo!  I think I try to connect with people by talking a lot.  Perhaps it is my actual lack of social prowess that then just comes awkwardly spilling out in an attempt to be "normal."  I don't know.  But, I find myself at the end of so many days, analyzing my conversations from the day and wondering why on earth I don't just keep my mouth closed more.  Tell me I'm not the only one who looks back on conversations and thinks, "Did I really repeat myself 6 times in the stretch of 3 minutes?!  Did I really tell that story to them?!  Why on earth did I talk so much and say so little of consequence?!  That was a ridiculously bad attempt at a joke!"  And on and on it circles through my mind.  Processing.  Analyzing.  So uncomfortable at my attempts to skip my internal processing mode and just roll with conversations in real time.

I keep praying that I will learn to talk less to save a bit on my analysis efforts at the end of the day and actually feel comfortable in my introverted skin.

And, now, I shall hit publish and add this to my long list of things to mull over for hours tonight instead of falling asleep.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Advent in Our Home

I LOVE Christmas!  Where I grew up, all of life was very seasonal.  The climate had distinct seasons,and it was a farming community that revolved around distinct seasonal events (planting, harvesting, etc.).  I adore fall and have a nostalgic warm fuzzy every year since I left the American Midwest, attempting to channel the fall season elsewhere.
But, perhaps even more than I love autumn, I love Christmas.  Not just the day but the whole season.  My family of origin always decorated the day after Thanksgiving, and we had lots of wonderful traditions...
Going into downtown Chicago to look at the windows at Marshall Field's on State Street
Choosing an ornament each year to add to our tree
Roasting hot dogs in the fireplace and eating oyster soup (I know it sounds weird) at my Grandpa and Grandma's house
At least one person at the extended family gathering every year getting sent on a scavenger hunt to search for his/her present
"Sticking" Psalms, where my great-grandfather would hold the book of Psalms between his hands, and each family member from youngest to oldest would stick in a table knife and read a portion of the Psalm s/he pointed to
Nativity scenes
Driving around to look at people's light displays
Singing carols around the piano
And, so many more!  And, I realize how having all of those traditions and memories is something in itself for which to be thankful!

I don't carry on all of those traditions, but I have carried on some, and we have made some new ones of our own, like new Christmas jammies each year, making something out of gingerbread (last year's attempt was a train), and a night of Christmas "camping" once our decorations are up.

I love doing all sorts of fun and festive things, but I definitely want to focus in on the true meaning of the season, so our Advent celebrations are important to us.  One of my favorite Advent traditions that we have in our home is our Jesse Tree.  My husband and I both have a passion for the Big Story of the Bible and how it all unfolds, so this opportunity to put the Christmas story in its amazing context just fit perfectly for us.  I have tweaked the traditional order a bit to include a few stories that I think are key in the broader narrative and have left out a few that I don't think are as key in it.  I've also added days after Christmas to extend it beyond the manger and, again, connect to that fuller picture.
For those that aren't familiar with a Jesse Tree, the name comes from Isaiah 11:1, where it says, "A shoot will spring up from the stump of Jesse; from his root a branch will bear fruit."  So, you start with a stump or bare branch of some kind (some use a symbol and some use actual branches), and then you place a symbol each day on that "tree" to represent the parts of the Story.

If you'd interested in how we do ours, here is the document that I've created for our family.  

I made a chart that lists the calendar date (so this one is obviously updated for 2014 specifically), the story, the symbol we put on the tree to represent the story, and the verse(s) we read.  I sometimes read the story from a children's Bible or tell the story and then just read the verses listed from the actual Bible, as my kids are quite young, but I did want to have a highlight verse or two for each story.

For our tree, I chose to make a big flannel piece to hang on the wall, and then all of our symbols are made of felt, and we put one up on the flannel each day.  As you can see from our photo, the boys don't really follow a specific order in hanging them up.  This is how ours looked last year as we finished, though it seems a few are missing.

In the chart, I've also put in the last column a suggested activity or reflection for that day.  Not all the days have one, and we certainly do other Christmas things throughout the season, but these are ones that I've chosen to connect up more specifically with our Advent time.

We also do light an Advent wreath on each Sunday of advent, and I've included those readings that we do right into the chart, highlighted in blue.

As you'll see noted at the bottom of the chart, I've included some references or resources from a couple of other sources.   There is a set of calendar connection cards at 1+1+1=1 for the Jesse Tree, and she has along with those a set of free printable ornaments that you could use.  They wouldn't match up exactly with mine, but she has readings listed for each day for the traditional sequence.  I hope to, at some point, have a set of my own to share to match up with this chart, but I just kind of made ours all free-hand, so I don't have that yet to share.

I hope that however you celebrate Advent and Christmas with your family is a joy- and awe-filled experience!