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Advent Day 2: Make all things beautiful

Today we put up our company’s Christmas decorations. And when I say “we”, I mean that my colleague said to me “alright Mel, let’s go,” and the two of us we went down (literally down one floor, to the cupboard otherwise neglected all year round) and dug up our decorations (literally dug up, from beneath several other boxes), and proceeded to put them up around our area. My job, as always with any decorating in our office, was to climb up on the available chairs, desks and cabinets in a decidedly non-health-and-safety-approved venture to stick things in the right places. The two of us were the elves, the angels, the fairies of Christmas; laughing at ourselves and making others laugh at our attempts to make limited supplies look festive.

Decorations are a symbol of celebration. Without decorations, Christmas as we know it now isn’t quite the same. The “Christmas spirit” is introduced with the colours, the tinsel, the bells, the stars, the lights. Decorations are a visual which I enjoy, too; full of symbolism for this thing we celebrate soon.

And I will celebrate. Advent is hope and waiting – anticipation. It’s anticipation for a great and wondrous thing – so wondrous that the heavens broke open to reveal crowds of angels singing over and over again of it. God came to earth – God became a baby. God used the weakest things to show Himself to us, purely for the love of us, and the world has never been the same because of it. God made a manger wonderful, He made a donkey memorable, a star indescribeable, and a slip of a girl and an honest-hearted man infamous forever. God makes all things beautiful in their time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Commercialism runs rampant these couple of months, and the busyness gets out of control around us. I must buy, I must give, and do that, and see this part of the family and go to this dinner and that party and finish things at work, and oh those Christmas cards and those work do-es and let’s not even get started on what we’re going to do about food on the day… These things seep through the stores and into our minds if we’re not careful – but I want to be careful. I will be careful, I will celebrate Jesus this season, not – whatever it is the commercialism is trying to sell and the cynics and commercialism rebels avoid.

Later for the colleague alone in her office this month with no decorations, we came in and took over, stringing tinsel above her whiteboard and over her computer. There’s no point if we’re not all going to celebrate together. There’s no point if anyone is left out, no matter where they’re at. We um – “borrowed” some decorations from one of the other companies to do this. Shhhh.

Celebration is multiplied when we think of ways to share joy. Celebration is multiplied when the shepherds are included for no real reason except perhaps that there’s suddenly a reason for humankind to celebrate, to rejoice. And as rejoicing multiplies, God is glorified.

We have to carry joy with us, lest the world try to hand us worry instead – and we have to hold on to that precious joy with both hands, lest the world drown us in lies and force us to forget. Put up your tree and drape that tinsel – turn on the lights, hang the bells. Or put up something else, or start making things, or cooking things – whatever it is that helps you celebrate. But choose to celebrate. And better – choose to carry that celebration with you, whichever moment you’re in. Quiet wonder, thrill of hope, shouts of joy, all. His birth was 2000 years ago but it’s no less real. Let’s join with God to make all things beautiful, now.

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2014 in Advent

 

Advent Day 1: Begin to reflect

Advent is the lead up to Christmas. Advent is hoping. Advent is waiting. Advent now, for Christians, is a specific time where we reflect on Christmas, intentionally, and the meaning of the incarnation – the better to know Christmas, the better to be Christians, and the better to know Christ.

So this first day should be the beginning of reflection.

Stop and breathe, everyone says. Stop and reflect. Just stop a moment, take a breath and reflect on ____ [insert topic of the day here]. This is a phrase we are used to. Our life is busyness, or at the very least, crowded and distracting. So almost as often as we tell each other to keep moving, keep doing, keep participating – do we also tell each other to stop. We can keep a measure of sanity this way – moving and stopping. Move and stop.

You see, in my own mind I treat the “just stop a moment, and reflect” thing as a thing in itself – a popular phrase, and a way to sound like, or believe that, you’re above the busyness somehow. Of course it holds great value, but it can also get a bit secularised, and become what may essentially amount to a method for reaching a state of self-actualisation. It can become a cool thing to say.

I both do and don’t want to “stop”. Life is movement, and stillness, together. There are seasons to press on and seasons to pull back – times to pursue something and times to think on something. But often, it’s the right time to do both. Be active, participate – and know that He is God, just as actively and no less surely. Learn the meaning – be still to learn it, and do this actively also. It may surprise some of you to know that I can’t stay still too long. My resting place is precious – and only when I have that can I happily get on with my life. Sometimes, my resting place isn’t physically stopping for half an hour in the morning.

How else can I describe this? I want to reflect. I want to contemplate. I want more than anything to learn the meaning of the incarnation – God coming to us. But I don’t want to be limited by a posture, or even a tradition. These things have great value, but they aren’t the thing themselves. I’m not in a place of wanting to completely draw back because it’s Advent – I still want to live, and see, and hear, and also tell. “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

This is a season of joy, of peace, of adoration, giving, suffering and glory. What would it mean not only to fully understand these things, but for my life to reflect them completely?

I’ve opened only one Advent resource website to assist me so far – but this is as far as I’ll go today. Today, I begin to reflect.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Advent

 

Ow…

Hey guys. How are we all?

So, sorry in advance if this comes across as a complaining post. But – in all frankness, does anyone have any ideas on curing/easing headaches?

I’ve had one for a few months now :( Some days (like today) worse than others. Getting headaches is very unlike me. Nov/Dec it was definitely stress, but it should really be easing off now.

Doctor says keep taking Paracetamol, and exercise etc. Obviously lots of water but that’s not something that’s changed.

Any further wisdom, friends?

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2014 in Uncategorised

 

Evenings in

Tonight I made this for dinner.

Well, sort of. It was more a question of – I have chicken thighs, I have opened coconut cream and I want to eat the beautiful corn I got at the market. So I googled a little and stumbled upon this, for the sauce, and just modified it with what we had in the house and what I felt like using. Ended up with some creamy kumara mash on the side, which complemented it beautifully.

It turned out pretty good, for me. Just for Graeme and I, the only two in the house for a bit. (Who is, incidentally, cracking me up with his rather fantastic Bananas in Pyjamas costume for the Sevens. I do love this guy.) We’ve been whiling the evening away with minor flat organising, updates in our respective romance departments, and TinTin. (This is the first time I’m seeing this, though I’m only half watching it. Makes a good in-the-background movie.)

How an artist sees their work

 

I also stumbled upon this.

Which is all too accurate, for my writing anyway. I have been picking up my novel – hesitantly, cautiously – steeling myself for the myriad of mistakes I know will leap out at me and question my ability to make this story worthwhile. But I am doing it.

Evenings in. Good things. :)

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Uncategorised

 

Funerals, How I Met Your Mother and the Question of Solving Problems

Today I was off work to attend a funeral. Funerals are funny things, especially family funerals. There’s the sudden family obligation placed on you, there’s an onslaught of emotion around you which you may or may not take on for yourself. There are relatives you recognise and relatives you don’t – simultaneously the relatives who recognise you and the relatives who don’t. There are beautiful moments, awkward moments, very Sri Lankan moments, and moments that make you very glad you came.

Later today I attended a meeting – a meeting which had me very uncomfortable at times. There are some fairly serious problems around. We are aware of many of them, it seems, but the question is: what do we do about them when they come to stare you in the face, in a way that starts to have personal implications for whether you do or do not take certain courses of action? Do you participate, share your concerns, refuse to participate, ignore?

The solution to the above will depend on the person and situation, and I need to pray and think this one through a bit.

In between the above two noteworthy events of the day, I watched the latest episodes of How I Met Your Mother. All caught up now. I have to say the season is making a bit of a comeback – I’m loving seeing the mother (who doesn’t yet have a name, correct?) and her character development taking place. Our rather extensive understanding of Ted (after eight and a half seasons, :-/) is the context for understanding her, this new character, and how when she and Ted meet they’re going to realise they are great for each other. Aww.

For now, though, more of that precious sleep thing. Goodnight.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2014 in Uncategorised

 

hi blog

I said I’d blog today.

I’m curled up in bed, tired, so tired – I waited for a bit to use the bathroom, while the boys fitted our newly acquired washing machine. It looks good. First lesson, though, I discovered: we may need to shower and do laundry at separate times. Unless we want an exciting, hot/cold shower.

Mind in many places. Tired. Typing. Staring at FB, getting out of it when I realise it’s not helpful. Watching How I Met Your Mother. Yay new episode. Reading Titus – caught at first paragraph; Hebrews – really must memorise; Philemon – makes me smile. Back to Titus. (Just about accidentally deleted all this text – yes, I’m tired.) Truth and knowledge and faith, coming from hope. Hope is the source of a lot of things. Hope, on reflection, is one of the key things meant to set us apart as Christians. Even down to the way we grieve.

Grief. I’m attending a funeral tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing family. It’ll also mean I’m not at work for most of the day. Work was good – small non-actual-work-achievements should be evaluated. Making a stressed colleague a cup of tea, telling an upstairs dude there was cake downstairs, eating fruit, giving a clever response back to a teasing comment, getting up and out into the sun for a decent half hour.

Headache not so good today, though. Bed very good. Falling asleep. Goodnight.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2014 in Uncategorised

 

Cans of – are they worms?

It can be hard to think about the year as a whole – too much to process. Delving into the appropriate thoughts and feelings can be like opening a can of worms – or maybe more a can of something mysterious, where the contents will probably be a mixture of things – beautiful things, probably some wormy things, some other things that are yet to find a category. But it will almost certainly be a can that will squirt at you a bit. So it’s being opened slowly, because I do know it has to be opened eventually, if only a little at a time.

Music helps. Shane and Shane is good at the moment. It’s almost like a validation of your own feelings to hear it in someone else’s voice in song, lifted up to God like a psalm.

Psalm 25 has been one that’s spoken to me lots, over the years. Read it, if you want – it has some interesting, heartfelt and true things to say.

Rescue me, God, because this is hard. Help, God – don’t let these things/people/circumstances/devil take me down – you promised you’d defend me. Your way is full of good things, and goodness, and I need you to help me go that way. I’m small, sinful, rebellious and weak – or I’m lonely and troubled, so please hear me, God. I know you can save me, and what’s more, I know you will. I believe that by placing my life, hope and trust in you, that I’ll be okay.

Or just: I’m confused, God. What should I do?

Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
for you are the God who saves me.
All day long I put my hope in you.

There are times of being beaten down with month-long headaches, stress of uncertain flat situations, staying on top of organising life generally, work, money, and the pressure of expectation that I do something amazing with my life. Like: Come on, Mel; do something. Why are you still there? No, of course the little things don’t count; you should be saving the world. You know that’s in you, and that fact that you’re just not living up to that equals failure. You wrote a draft of a novel in a month? Great, it only took you 25 years. And I’m sorry, it’s about what? That’s unoriginal, stupid even – what are you thinking.

These are the voices I hear – in other people’s well-intentioned words, or in my own head. I know what they are (lies), and that I can’t listen to them – I need to replace them with good voices. Read that Bible, Mel, you know it brings you life. You know it does, even in the harder times, when you pick it up and dare to let it speak, and to listen. Daring to face God, acknowledging I need help more than anyone. It’s easier not to, sometimes, even though it’s my rescue. It’s easier to continue in sin, too, even though it’s a dead end that I know will leave me with nothing.

And God is with me. Get up, he says, gently. It’s okay, he whispers. Try again. You can do it. Try again. I’m like a child learning to walk – or perhaps only to crawl, because I’m so small and my achievements so minuscule, so un-noteworthy, meaning nothing except to those who love me and know how big they are; and to God, who knows me inside and out, and granted me those challenges; and to myself, knowing where I am: in that position of learning to crawl.

I believe there’s grace even for me. In fact, I know it, when I can see it play out. And that knowledge strengthens my ability to believe it in between, when I’m not seeing it yet, when my vision is blurry through circumstance or my failure, or both.

Guard my life and rescue me;
let me not be put to shame,
for I take refuge in You.
May integrity and honesty protect me,
because my hope is in You.

Definitely some lovely things in that can.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Uncategorised