Advent. #itscomplicated

We’re coming to the end of the season of Advent, which marks the beginning of the church year. More so than other seasons like Lent, which has a more specific focus, Advent is a more complex microcosm of life. The Sundays celebrate Hope, Peace, Joy & Love. There is also the slaughter of innocents, injustice, barrenness, and powerful darkness. And yet in the midst of darkness, we have seen a great light.

This year during Advent, we’ve seen the #blacklivesmatter movement rise up in protest of the killing of young black men by police, the slaughter of school children in Pakistan, senseless violence in Australia, and the rampant terror perpetuated by groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. Closer to home, I have friends who are going through unspeakable difficulty in this season, as I’m sure everyone does.

I also have friends who are full of joy.

It’s much easier to be swept up in the shiny, twinkly holiday energy that pervades American culture beginning earlier and earlier every year. I swear, next year Macy’s will start putting up trees in July.

Today we focus on Love, but it is also the darkest day of the year. Less light and less warmth makes love hard to see.

The pastor of the church I’ve been attending badly wants me to quote him, so here goes. Today during communion, he said that the elements of the supper exist because their core ingredients had been crushed to produce something new. Those new things nourish the community.

2014 was a year that sucked for so many people. I’m kind of in the middle – some good, some bad. Some of my friends have been crushed this year, but they are hanging in there, looking forward to being made into something new. Some of my friends have experienced nothing but happiness, love and light. I’m really happy for them. I’ve got some good things on the horizon, I think and I’m looking forward what the year will bring. But, whatever comes, like Advent, 2015 will be complicated. There will be darkness and light, heartbreak and warmth, death and resurrection. Hoping that the coming year brings all of us the great light in the darkness.

Friday Five: Recovery Edition

deb writes:

That was the air rushing out of our collective pool of energy. Whether you led one small service or 5 huge ones, let’s talk about recovery mode. In less than 48 hours, there’s another Sunday service, or a weekday ministry starting up again. So, tell us:

1. What’s your “chill out” foot gear? Slippers or socks? Or Birkenstocks? (Poem not intentional)

I totally don’t believe the poem was unintentional. But I love it, so that’s good. I prefer barefootedness regardless of temperature, but I will don the cozy socks if I’m feeling chilly.

2. A holiday treat or beverage that just makes you say “AAAAAAHHHHHHH!!”

Granny’s Egg Nog. I know, egg nog is a polarizing beverage. First, let me say that the sludge they sell in cartons at the grocery store is a hate crime. Nasty. My Grandmother’s recipe is almost like a vanilla shake. It’s made with eggs, sugar, milk and a package of vanilla pudding mix (NOT instant – you can imagine the result). Then you pour it in a glass and top it off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Heaven. I also love me a peppermint mocha.

3. What sight or sound moved you during the season? (This can be good or bad.)

Unfortunately, this year it was the report on the CIA torture techniques and the protests against police brutality. It reminded me that the Advent and Christmas stories are not only filled with warm fuzzies, but has a powerful story to tell about the slaughter of the innocents, injustice and abuse of power.

4. With whom did you enjoy sharing time with over the Christmas season?

Biological family as always. I love that I don’t have to travel during this season. Church family, which is new to me but quickly becoming important. Chosen family, which is also new, but really great. It’s been a fun holiday season.

5. Was there someone missing from your festivities? How are you doing with that?

While this year brought the end of some friendships, I feel like I’m in a good place with regard to the friends I do have. Not all friendships or relationships are intended to last for long periods of time and it makes me appreciate the ones that do all the more. I’m fortunate to not have lost anyone close to me through death this year. I know way too many people who have, however, and my heart was heavy for them this season.

Friday Five: Christmas Soon!

Margaret Fitch's nativity set

janintx writes:

This was the first Nativity scene I ever had. My cousin Margaret sent it to me from France when I was in first grade. I still put it out every year, a tradition I love. (Notice how Mary is holding baby Jesus!)

For today’s Friday Five, choose any five things about this upcoming Christmas that comes to mind, such as memories, traditions, plans, worries, whatever you wish. Add a favorite recipe, song, or tradition that you would like to share as the bonus category.

1. Christmas on Christmas Eve

So, we’re German-ish. And a lot of Eastern European. Mennonite, really. (see below). My mom always thought we did Christmas on Christmas Eve because my dad’s family doesn’t do delayed gratification but there is some cultural justification. My dad has a mental block against opening presents in daylight. True story. Our routine has become that we spend the day together, kids playing, making stuff, watching cartoons, etc. Then we all part ways and go to our respective churches and reconvene for dinner around 7. After dinner, it’s all presents all the time.

2. Food

As previously mentioned, we are ethnically Mennonite, which involves specific foods. We also have lived in the desert southwest for over 40 years. So, as you might imagine, there’s some overlap. For a long time, we were in the habit of having chili, tamales & Mexican Coke for Christmas Eve, but then the retail years came and I wasn’t home on Christmas Eve. My brother is not particularly fond of tamales (I know. Tragic.) so those years when I wasn’t home, he wrangled Mom into making vereneke, a Mennonite dumpling concoction that I absolutely loathe. It’s disgusting, but he’s all about it. Now that I’m local and here on the holiday, we’ve had to combine the two traditions into what I like to call a Mexonnite feast. It’s all really good and everyone is happy.

3. Buche de Noel

I know I just talked about food but this cake gets its own entry. The first year I was home (now 3 Christmases ago – eek!) I was reading through the local food blog and came across an entry for the best holiday desserts. I decided to order this Buche de Noel cake from a bakery in Scottsdale. Oh. My. Gosh. This thing is ridiculous. Just the most delicious dark chocolate, and there are dried cranberries inside. So freaking delicious. 133561_10151174980227201_1262346161_o

4. Movie on Xmas Day

Since we do Christmas on Christmas Eve, my brother is free to go to his in-laws for Christmas Day and it’s all good. This means, the rest of us have nothing to do. We’ve never had anything to do on Christmas Day, now there are just fewer of us with nothing to do. I personally like to sleep in, see a movie, and then join our Jewish brethren for Chinese food. Last year I went do a horrible movie with the parents, but since they created me, I acquiesced. This year, I may actually have a FRIEND with whom I can go to a movie. Alert the media. I’m getting a life.

5. The Children on winter break

I love this time of year because I get some extra time with the kids since they’re out of school. I can’t take a ton of time off this year, but the way the holidays naturally fall I get some good time. Hopefully we’ll work out a sleepover or something.

Friday Five: Random Tinsel Toe Edition

revkarla writes:
Happy Friday Five, all you gals and pals winding your way through Advent!

Time to take a break, put your tinsel toes on, and play a round of Friday Five for a breath or two.

1. What song are you grooving to these days?

I’ve got my rockin’ awesome Xmas playlist going right now and I’m really enjoying the new Pentatonix album. As one who loves a good mashup, I’m particularly fond of the Winter Wonderland/Don’t Worry Be Happy selection.

2. If YOU were a room in your home, what would it be, and why?

I’d be the kitchen. Warm, inviting, relaxing, practical & full of good things!

3. What ever happened to LipSmackers? Does anyone remember that lip balm from the 70’s? Do you have a recommendation for a really awesome lip balm?

Oh I remember. Today I was cleaning out my old purse and I found a jillion lip balms, but these days, my go-to are handmade organic products made by my friend who runs the shop Quiet As Chamomile on Etsy.

4. Tell us about a tiny (or HUGE) grace moment from this week.

At this moment in my life all grace moments are big. I think the biggest one that’s from the last couple of weeks is that I may have landed in a church & they’re happy to have me.

5. If you could just have any treat/snack in the world right now, what it would be and with whom would you share it? (assuming you are in a sharing kind of mood.

That’s cute, but I don’t share. Right now I’m kind of hungry so I’d do almost anything. My go-to snack is usually chips & salsa & treat is ice cream. However, at this time of year I’m going straight for the Candy Cane Joe-Joes.

Friday Five: Oh! Christmas Tree!

3dogmom writes:

beagle-wrapped-in-christmas-lights

It’s been a week of wrangling with the Christmas tree at our house. Multiple strands of new lights were strung carefully on the tree for big impact, but here and there malfunctions and blackouts occurred. On the third day we still don’t have fully functional lights, which is problematic mostly because until that is resolved, nothing else goes on the tree.

In light of that (no pun intended) I thought The Christmas Tree might be a good launch pad for today’s FF. So…

1) Real tree, or “fake?”

Real. Fake trees make the Baby Jesus cry.

2) White or colored lights?

I prefer white. I feel like colored lights steal the thunder of the ornaments. However, I prefer colored lights for the exterior.

3) When do you put up and take down your tree?

Mmmm..I’ll probably do it this weekend. In these parts, trees quickly become fire hazards, so we don’t have them up too long.

4) Tell us about your favorite ornament (share a picture, if you can).

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5) What goes on the top of your tree (again, share a photo, if possible)?

I have both an angel and a big red bow. This year, the bow wins.

Be sure to link to your blog page where we can visit your Friday Five and say hello!

Free At Last! A Virtual Hysterectomy Shower

Hi Friends! – I’m spending MLK weekend losing the lady parts, so I’m creating a virtual shower for myself. Gifts and everything!

On Thursday, January 15th I’ll be having a hysterectomy. Since you all have had showers for what you’ve done with your lady parts, it seems to be my turn.

This will also be the place where there are updates on my surgery that my sister-in-law will post.

Here’s a list of my gift registries. Gift cards are also welcome.

Crate & Barrel – http://www.crateandbarrel.com/Gift-Registry/tiffany-flaming/r5234556

Target – http://www.target.com/ot/list/GFGyaxX-gpl0v9JJ_nQ3Ew

Amazon – http://amzn.com/w/1CKLCSBQTIPSJ

Audible – http://www.audible.com/wl/ref=a_hp_mst_tnaft_3?ie=UTF8&pf_rd_r=19W8HB3VW87NSG873RXZ&pf_rd_m=A2ZO8JX97D5MN9&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_i=5000&pf_rd_p=1981533882&pf_rd_s=top-nav-ftx