Saturday, December 25, 2010

Oh Holy Night

This is the beautiful and incredibly challenging blog written by our friend Tara that I mentioned in my last post. It has me thinking these days I hope it will do the same for you. Basically all I need to say in response to this blog post is Amen.

To read more of Troy and Tara's good stuff, as well as learning about their amazing work in Haiti, go here:

Every direction you turn, the images of Christmas can be found. You need not look far to find beautifully thought out displays, tastefully decorated homes with glowing trees, and rows and rows of symmetrical twinkling lights. Step into one of these homes and the warm fire will greet you as you breathe in fresh scents of pine, ginger, and cinnamon. It is beautiful and clean and pristine.

Looking upon these exquisite arrangements one senses order and peace.

O Holy Night.

In contrast I'm reflecting on the untidy disorder of the lives of so many celebrating Christmas around the world this year. They experience vastly different surroundings and a much more simplified version of the annual celebration of the Christ child. It looks nothing like the photos in the magazines and has not even the tiniest hint of Martha Stewart. They don't string lights around a tree or build gingerbread houses; yet meek and mild - they celebrate.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.

How did our celebration of this day become so clean and crisp? Where are the smells and sweat and tears that were most certainly a part of Mary and Joseph's journey? It begs the question: Do 'Better Homes and Gardens' scenes with sparkling lights and gorgeous decorations reflect the Christmas story best? Are the experiences of a frightened and embarrassed teenage mother-to-be anything like that? Do the suffering in our world experience Christmas more like Mary and Joseph did - or do we?

A thrill of hope - the weary world rejoices.

I'm reflecting on these two extremes. I love the exquisitely ordered and the beautifully arranged. I picture that sort of beauty in our Heavenly home.

While yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

I long for a day when disparity and injustice ends and brothers and sisters from every continent celebrate Jesus and His birth surrounded by love, joy, dancing, singing and immeasurable peace and beauty.

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Truthfully I also find great inspiration in the simple, dingy, humble celebrations of those who struggle and toil without access to our unstained images of Christmas. I long for their stripped down total dependence on God. I pray for spiritual wealth like that of the materially poor. I want a Christmas less like Oprah's and more like theirs.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Our youngest daughter Lydia has been struggling with choices lately. When offered a choice of two things she'll often reply, "I want two ones." When she says that, she means I want them both. As I soak in Christmas this year I find myself wanting two ones. I want the perfect looking, delicious smelling, pain free and unpolluted Christmas and I want the dirty, stinky, humble, difficult, but miraculous Christmas that Mary and Joseph and the poor experience.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.

While I attempt to reconcile two very different Christmases, the celebrations only make sense to me in the context of good overcoming evil. God coming to earth in the form of His son Jesus, to live a sinless life, to die for us ... In His resurrection the promise that one day there will be beauty and justice for all. The end of death. The end of suffering.

O Holy Night.

Christmas in M-ville

Here we are on Christmas Eve, washing laundry, taking naps, doing some last minute shopping, eating (way too many) Christmas goodies, and spending time with friends and family. Seems pretty normal, right? So far Christmas has been nice here in M-ville. Last night A and I finally got around to watching Elf as we drank hot chocolate and decorated our tree. We met with our team this morning for a service (Friday is Sabbath day here) where we sang carols, told the Christmas story, drank hot chocolate, had treats. Little t was convinced that everyone wanted to hear him play the piano and continued to try his hardest to give them their deepest desire. All of our teammates from Finland were dressed in their finest and they joked because those of us from the States (our family) were in jeans. We gave thanks for such a wonderful gift as a Savior and talked about what our lives given as gifts looks like.

Now, Little t is sleeping, A ran to the bazaar quickly, I am doing laundry and reflecting on the day. We will soon go eat lunch with our Finnish teammates (the well dressed ones) because the Eve of Christmas is their special day.

Tomorrow, we will have lunch provided by our friends who are Brits, exchange gifts, laugh lots and eat too much. We had our little family celebration before we came, so there won’t be a lot of gift exchanging here, but we did get Little t a new ball in the bazaar yesterday that will probably be wrapped up for him. We are just enjoying feeling a little more settled and warm in our house. We are thankful for my mom being here with us and the enormous amount of help she has been.

It isn’t easy to be away from family on this holiday and I don’t feel like over-spiritualizing it, but we are glad to be here. When we have internet again I will post a blog written by friends of ours who work in Haiti. Her challenging words have pierced my heart this season as I think about the depth and meaning of Christmas…how amazing, yet tragic to have a baby wrapped in rags and placed in a stall. Oddly, I find myself comparing life here to what it must have been like at the time of the Saviors entrance – dirty and dingy, dark and cold, so much hurt and desperation around him, yet he came with peace and hope and truth. We feel so honored to be a small flicker of light in such a dark part of the world. We find ourselves hoping and asking that the Father would be pleased with the part we play in brining peace on earth in this place.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Here We Go Again...

So, I am going to try this again…it seems like “life” has gotten the better of me for the most part and I just haven’t written on this blog like I would like to. But now that we are on the ground in M-ville (more on that later) I feel like I will need an outlet and want to be consistent with this. I so appreciate other friends from around the world who are good about blogging about life in their respected places because I feel like it is a huge part of advocacy for what is going on around the world and how the Father is working…and given where we are and what we are doing, the same voice needs to be ringing out from here as well…so here goes it.

The reality of this huge transition in our lives is finally beginning to set in. Even for the first few days in K-town I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the fact that we were back. Maybe because we were SO enjoying life and time with family and friends in the States that we didn’t really go through the period of restlessness before we came. Usually we get sick of where we are and become very excited about making it to our new location…but we were just having so much fun that it didn’t happen! Or maybe the fact that we were busy with little t turning a year old and obsessing about how he would adjust. When we were landing in K-town, A and I turned and looked at each other, my mom on one side, little t on the other and said to each other, “can you believe that this is really happening”?!?

It has been a long road back to this crazy land. A year mostly filled with HUGE transition to having a child (the most delightful little boy ever, I might add). It was also filled with big questions about where the Father was leading next, deep healing and restoration, great grief and loss (we lost 6 friends from our organization here – 4 of them young adults), and many questions and times of waiting to see what the Father had in store next. I feel like it was a year of quiet growth…feeling like we were being molded and shaped in faith and trust. It was a constant battle and discovery of what the Father wants for us…because part of us could have very easily settled down in our little house in the States and felt right at home…but we felt that we were being asked to do more. After our friends were killed, we immediately thought that we wouldn’t make it back here. But we came to the conclusion that we didn’t have peace about staying in the States…there would always be the nagging feeling of wondering how life would have been if we had gone back…because we didn’t have peace about staying.

So, here we are…A is hooking up the washing machine and a diaper sprayer, we have running water and electricity and a fridge. My mom and I made Christmas cookies today. Little t and I jumped on the trampoline. We have a great team and are beginning to get our feet wet again. The Christmas decorations sit in the corner…maybe we will get to them tomorrow…for now, I just marvel in the goodness of the Father. There are so many little ways that He has blessed us richly since returning. There have been hard and frustrating times so far and there will be plenty more, but the quiet peace has not left…and we bask in that.