Archive | December, 2010

I finally edited something!

26 Dec

It feels good, I must admit, to say that I finished something. It’s not perfect, but I’m proud of finishing. This is a video I created during my Christmas break for the students in the Czech Republic that I met last summer when filming my documentary. It’s really just a side project to get me motivated to continue editing the bigger documentary and I think it’s working! I found in my footage so many good clips from the trip. I have a lot of good stuff to choose from and I’m really excited to see what comes of it!

Here it is! Watch video here.

Would love to hear your feedback!

Musings On Christmas Traditions

21 Dec

Christmas is a little harder this year. It doesn’t help that I hear Wham’s “Last Christmas” everywhere I go and when shopping with my roommate, I get sad that I can’t really afford to buy any presents for anyone this year. But it’s not all bad. I have a job this Christmas. That’s an improvement! I get to be around family and friends. And I feel close to God, which makes me appreciate the gift of Jesus even more.

Despite the difficulty I’ve faced this holiday season, I’ve begun to make new traditions and still uphold old ones. My aunt and cousins are coming in from Colorado as they have the past several years. We’ll play games together, enjoy my mom’s well-planned and delicious meals, and compete in our annual croquet tournament, always a highlight. My dad and I went to church together for Christmas as we do each year. Whether it’s been Lutheran churches, Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational, or Foursquare, in Ohio, Chicago, or California, we don’t miss this special time. It started in high school when we were in Ohio visiting our family. I wanted to go to the church where my mom was raised in Columbus. Ever since, we’ve made it part of Christmas for us to help each other remember the real meaning of Christmas. Usually, we would go on Christmas Eve but since I began attending Christian Assembly and the weekend before Christmas is usually one of the best services of the year, my dad and I changed our tradition. And traditions have to change sometimes because we change. We grow in and out of traditions. That doesn’t mean they are gone forever, just different.

My cousin resurrected a tradition recently that I had almost forgotten. When I was young, my grandma would make all of the members in the family these amazing Santa cookies. The cookies are epic. Nothing compares. Each cookie takes at least 15 solid minutes to decorate and includes coconut, sprinkles, raisins for the eyes, icing, and red gloss for the lips. Every year about two weeks before Christmas, we would get our package in the mail of santa cookies! Our immediate family would argue about how many cookies each of us had eaten. At one point, we even had to section off the refrigerator so that someone wouldn’t “accidentally” eat another’s cookie. It got heated. My cousin found a cookie cutter online and she made the cookies this year! How exciting. Soon I’ll have the recipie in hand and next year, I can attempt Santa cookies for my friends and family.

When thinking about traditions, I thought of the Christmas tree. I got my own real tree this year. Granted, it’s about four feet tall and topples over every once in awhile because I couldn’t find a tree stand that workd, but it’s real and it’s actually mine. It makes me think I want to do this again next year. Friends I know recently had to redecorate their real Christmas tree. Their old one suddenly died and all of the work and time they put into decorating the first tree was undone when they had to take all of the ornaments off and put them back on a new tree.

Christmas trees are like stories of a family, which is why I like them. Each ornament has a reason for being there. On this particular tree, each of the kids had a “My First Christmas” ornament with the year on it. Some ornaments were handmade and it was easy to trace back and see who was responsible for its creation based on whose name was on the back. All of their ornaments told stories through bible verses, macaroni and beans placed on cardboard, places they had been. and pictures of the children frozen for that moment of time, adorning the tree with their smiles from Christmases in years past. I noticed a rather new ornament on their tree to comemorate their son who was born on December 18th last year. Imagining Christmases where he wasn’t part of the family, before he existed was strange. With him, a new tradition was born. Now, this family will celebrate his birth while also remembering Christmas.

We can sing the same songs each year and they bring us comfort. We can drink our peppermint mochas, sit by the fire, play games with people we love, reconnect with old friends. We can have Christmas trees or not. We can choose to engage with one another this Christmas or choose to hide away. We can choose to be busy shopping or we can take a few moments to reflect on our year. We can choose to celebrate Christmas or dread it.

As I grow older and remember Christmas traditions I want to keep and make, I remember moments and people, not just things. I remember laughing to the point of tears when coming up with funny names to put on Christmas presents, accidentally revealing gifts that were still wrapped, and songs sung in basements on clanky pianos on a farm in Ohio. I remember Christmas plays and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” I remember my dad holding my hand at church. I remember the statue we have of Santa kneeling next to the baby Jesus in a manger and what a picture of humility that taught me even when I wasn’t aware yet.

This Christmas, I choose to embrace. I choose to let family and friends and God in. I choose to move forward and hope that next year things will look and feel a little different and the traditions I will keep will remain close.

Sideways Glances and George Bailey

15 Dec

It happened again. I’m reading Facebook and another friend got engaged. Two more changed their profile pictures to sonograms, effectively telling their entire networks that they are pregnant. In my world where I’m scraping by to make ends meet, I’m newly single and still smarting from the pain, and I keep praying my car can make it to my next paycheck so that I can have that odd smell checked out, my life feels like the beginning to a Jennifer Weiner novel or some other sad, chick-lit tale with an unlikely leading lady. It’s easy to compare my life to other people’s. When I do, everyone has the perfect life without problems. Looking at others’ lives on Facebook can sure make it seem like they live amazing lives. I think that’s what’s ironic about Facebook in that way. It’s supposed to connect people but sometimes the way it plays out, it seems like everyone is putting their best foot forward and not allowed to be real. If they do attempt to be real, people start to worry and write comments like, “Are you okay? Let’s get coffee soon.” Or worse, no one says anything and just lets it play out. I think of my own status updates which have effectively communicated that my life is great and I’m busy doing fabulously important and fun things.

I compare my life to others all of the time, if I’m honest. Especially right now in the hard season that I’m in, I desperately want to figure out WHY things are happening to me, er rather, why they are not happening the way I want in the timely manner that I choose. What happened to my dreams? Why do I frequently feel and wonder if this is as good as it gets? Automatically my thoughts turn to other people. I start to wonder how they got that great husband or this amazing job doing exactly what they love to do and I wonder how it is that I’m dealing with a familiar kind of pain of disappointment AGAIN. What did I do so wrong? I could go on all day. I often do, but I’m trying something new right now.

My pastor, Tom, calls what I’m doing “sideways glancing.” He actually preached a great sermon about it a few weeks ago. He says, “Sideways glances come to steal our gratitude away.” How true. When I’m spending all of this time and energy feeling jealous of other people or taking “sideways glances” at their lives, I’m missing something in the process. I’m forgetting what it is I have that they don’t have. I’m single. Well, that means I have a whole lot of time. Time that I can be devoting to amazing causes, editing my documentary, taking up a new hobby, getting in shape, finally getting around to learning to cook and not being afraid of it, learning to manage my money. People in relationships don’t always have that kind of time. It’s harder for them to juggle everything. I’m scrappy. I have to be right now. I’m resourceful. Somedays I’m stuck, but some times there are these small moments of clarity and I can move again. I’m praying for more of those.

At the end of the day, I believe there has to be a reason for all of this. Sometimes not knowing what that is makes me crazy. And then comes George Bailey. I was watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” again. It’s a movie I could quote the lines to. Even the intonations, I’ve seen it so much. George Bailey becomes a sideways glancer. He forgets all that he has and instead becomes obsessive about the $8000 he’s lost. He forgets his supportive family, all of the friends he’s made, the way he’s changed his town, all of his giftings, even the reason for Christmas! In the moment when George gets it. In that instant when he starts to pay attention to all the things he can be thankful for, even something as small as Zuzu’s petals in his pocket, everything for George changes. He gets a second chance to live life again and this time look closer at what he has and appreciate the small things. Suddenly the Bailey Building and Loan is “wonderful.” Even Mr. Potter, his archnemesis and a constant thorn in George’s side, deserves a boisterous greeting of “Merry Christmas!” Life changes when we stop taking sideways glances and instead appreciate what we’ve been given. In this season, I’m trying to take time to do that. It’s not been easy. Everyday has it’s own challenges. I’m exhausted from a long year. Somedays I can’t see through the fog in front of me and everything feels sad. Saturday night when I watched George Bailey stop and realize how wonderful his life had been, I cried. Not just a couple of tears, but I really cried with all of my heart and soul. Even though I’d seen the movie a million times, something new struck home. I realized George Bailey was like me. Sure his life was messed up. There didn’t seem to be any hope. But then God literally intervened in the form of an angel. So in that moment, I prayed. I said, “God, I may not understand you right now, but I’m going to choose to not take sideways glances at other people’s lives. I don’t want to miss out what you have for me in this moment, in this season of my life. Give me grace as I navigate this whole situation. I need it.”

It was 30 years ago today…

9 Dec

I don’t remember 30 years ago yesterday, but I remember 15 years ago. I was a sophomore in high school at the pinnacle of my Beatles fandom. My friends and I all wore shirts to commemorate  15 years since  of the death of John Lennon. We were really sad. For a day, we grieved the loss of his talent, musicianship, and personality. For months we had been talking about John as if we really knew him.

John making a face while standing with Julia, his mother.

In our minds, we did. We’d spent hours listening to Beatles music and then to records from John’s solo career. We counted how many times the word “and” was used in  the 90 minute “Beatles First Us Visit.” (I don’t remember but it was well over 400).  We invented stories about how John was like our older brother, witty and a prankster. We implemented words from John’s Liverpudlian lingo into our own vocabulary. We spent days reading about John’s life, trying to understand him and trying to figure out what the heck he saw in Yoko Ono. Back in those days when my teenage self needed something to believe in that was bigger than who I was, the Beatles were my religion and I was a devoted follower.

That said, on December 8, 1995, we mourned the loss as if we had just heard the news for the first time. I can only imagine how hard it would have been the actual day that John Lennon was shot. I’ve read biographies of Mark David Chapman to try to understand what he was thinking and I had to stop because I decided I didn’t really want to be in the mind of someone capable of killing like that. I’ve visited the outside of the Dakota ( creepy as it is) which is John’s old apartment building in New York City where he was shot. I’ve gone across the street to Strawberry Fields in Central Park where fans put flowers on a commemorative mosaic for John.  I went to an art show in Chicago that had John’s original drawings. Someday I will make it to Liverpool and see the Cavern Club. I will find the real Strawberry Fields.

So what did I do to grieve the loss of John yesterday? I listened to some Beatles songs. I connected with a couple of my old Beatle fan friends. And I thought about how far I’ve come since those years. How John Lennon helped me connect to a part of myself that I didn’t know before.  How the Beatles helped me learn to love and appreciate music.  How my devotion to the Beatles, while an early demonstration of my counter cultural instincts, was also a predictor to my later  follower ship of and relationship with Jesus. (more on this in later blogs).

As a Beatles fan,  I learned how to be devoted. I learned how to be loyal. I gained patience. I gained vast knowledge about something very quickly. I learned how to love something so much that it hurts.  And 15 years ago on the anniversary of the death of John Lennon, I learned how to grieve.  Since that time,  I’ve discovered that grieving John’s death, as hard as it was for my 15 year old brain to comprehend, became for me an invaluable first lesson.

“How will this be, since I am ____?”

2 Dec

In my reflection this morning, I came across a powerful thought that was spoken directly from the lips of Mary herself. When the angel came upon her and frightened her, telling her she was about to bear the son of God, she asked the angel a question that is similar to a question I’m constantly asking God.

She says, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Good question, Mary. It seems impossible. For all intents and purposes, it IS impossible. Except that it wasn’t.

The question of “How?” surrounds me. If I’m in this hard place, HOW will I ever feel better? If my friends are struggling with getting pregnant, HOW will it ever work for them to have children? If I have so many great single girlfriends, HOW come they aren’t married yet? If my friend’s mom has cancer, HOW will she get through it? If something in my friendships or family relationships is off, HOW will it become right again? If there is so much injustice in the world HOW will God ever be able to make it right? HOW will I ever attain all of these dreams that God’s put in my heart?

“How will this be, God?” Sometimes God takes his sweet time answering. On those days, I honestly just cry through my shower and then cry through my lunch break and cling to the hope that things are going to get better soon. Sometimes on those days I get encouragement from a friend that gets me through it and that’s enough for that moment. But then there are those times that I’m full of hope after asking the “how” questions. Times when I remember that just because I ask how doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen. Mary questioned her calling. She questioned God. And yet she still became arguably the most famous woman to ever live. Not that it’s all about fame,  but my point is, God was not disuaded by her questions. She still had an assignment. She still fulfilled it. She was scared. She was young. She was unsure. But she said yes to it all despite the how. She trusted that although she had a How, it would all work out.

So I’ve been asking myself another question. “How am I going to get through the holidays?” They seem harder this year. Lonlier. More “going through the motions.” Luckily, I’ve been studying advent and the anticipation of the coming of Jesus. And in small moments I remember that’s what it’s about. The anticipation. It’s not about me and my problems. It’s not about all of the junk I’ve been carrying around. It’s about that whisper that comes between Christmas carols. It’s about the breath I breathe when I first get out of the car on a cold, December night that’s crisp and smells like burning leaves. It’s about those moments of joy I feel in between my tears. In those moments, the HOW fades away and I anticipate. I remember why I believe. I remember that God is good. I am alive right here and right now. And I think that if I miss those moments, I’m missing the point. Sure it’s okay for me to be in this season. Most days it’s really hard. But I can still ask how. I can still wonder. And maybe in between those moments, I can remember Mary and realize that her “How” wasn’t the end of her story. It was really just the beginning.

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