Extraordinary Joy for an Ordinary World

Some days just feel so — well — ordinary. Get up, dress, eat, work, clean clothes and dishes, tuck everyone in, sleep, and then do it all over again the next day. Advent worship | Extraordinary Joy for an Ordinary World

I’ve spent much of my adult years whining and upset about the fact that I haven’t yet done anything “extraordinary.” The year I turned 40, I was depressed for six months because I felt that all my “best years” were behind me and I had little to show for it.

Do you ever feel that you’re just “ordinary” — nothing extra special with little to offer? I do.

Here’s the truth of the matter, though. We are “ordinary,” in the sense that we are the created, but the desire — that longing for something bigger and greater than ourselves — is not wrong. The desire for greatness in fact points to a greater reality (it’s the whining and complaining and self-centeredness that’s wrong and for which we must repent).

God in his wisdom and mercy uses the ordinary to do the most extraordinary things! Think about it; that is his primary mode of action today. The Bible talks of all the “ordinary” people he called into his service. He uses men and women to affect change.

So I’m not surprised at all that he chose the most ordinary of ordinary humans to first notify of Jesus’ birth. After all, Jesus himself became so very ordinary — being born as a helpless baby to a young couple in a barn — that I dare say we should expect nothing else.

When I think of shepherds and the way that Jesus came into the world, I’m encouraged. I’m assured that in God’s economy we are all useful, even if we see ourselves, our situations, and our gifts as “ordinary.”

That brings me joy, indeed.

This Sunday is the Third Sunday of Advent. You can light the third candle on the Advent wreath and lead the family in a brief time of worship as suggested below. For more ideas for celebrating Advent and Christmas with your kids, check out my new free ebook, A Different Christmas This Year.

ordinary | Advent worship | Christmas traditions | different Christmas this yearThird Sunday of Advent: The Shepherds 

Gather around the Advent wreath. Briefly explain how shepherds were regarded in Jesus’ day: People didn’t like shepherds very much. They thought they were dirty and lowly. They considered their job kind of gross: they were in fields for a long time with smelly sheep. But God chose to reveal Christ’s birth to the shepherds first! He didn’t go to the Kings and Queens or even the church leaders. He chose ordinary people to receive the news.

Why is it significant that God chose to reveal Christ’s birth to the shepherds first? Why should that give us joy?

Advent Sunday #3: Candle of Joy
Read Luke 2:14-17 and light the first and second purple candles and the pink candle: “When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:15-16 ESV)

Peace in the Midst of Chaos

 

Advent worship | Second Sunday of Advent | Christmas traditionIt’s not even December as I write this, but our holiday season has taken off like a rocket ship launched into outer space. This week alone, we have daily wrestling practice, soccer practice, two wrestling matches, two basketball (cheer) games, cheer practice, dance class, youth group, band practice, all-day band event at school, and a soccer game. That doesn’t even include dental appointments that I had to cancel because who has time for oral hygiene and dental care?

Chaos. How, why are our lives so crazy? How in the world do we even enjoy Christmas?

We did get our decorations up this weekend, which was a fun family activity, plus I have a slew of cheesy Christmas Hallmark movies on the DVR recorded from the free cable on Thanksgiving weekend. Those things do help bring a sense of calming to an otherwise insane week at our house. (Of course, who has time to watch movies? Maybe I’ll get through them before Easter.)

The other thing we aim to do is light our Advent wreath and have a brief time of family worship most nights of the week. I’ve also subscribed to receive a daily Advent prayer from one of my church’s pastors. You can sign up, too, if you like. Click here.

It’s hard to stay on track and out of the insanity this time of year. It is super-hard — not gonna lie. But it is our goal.

[Read more…]

Glad That Christmas Is Over

Christmas is over, and I’m glad.

I hate being that way, but it’s how I feel. Just being honest.

I said this to Chris when we collapsed into bed on Christmas Eve. He got really upset with my comment, saying I needed to try to enjoy it, savor it, and celebrate it.

I was (and am still) just so, so tired.

(If you’ll indulge my whining for a moment, please read on. If you don’t wish to, skip the following paragraph. And, yes, I know some people have far busier lives than I. But for me and my geriatric metabolism, my infantile sleep needs, and my underactive thyroid, stick a fork in me; I am done.)

This Christmas season, I worked about 10-15 hours either away from home or on projects at home every week. I shopped for and wrapped gifts and stocking stuffers for 4 family members, 2 sets of grandparents, 3 nephews, school and Sunday school teachers, the mail carrier and trash men, and a few friends. I designed and ordered Christmas cards (still haven’t addressed and mailed them). I designed and ordered Christmas cards for my mother. I planned, shopped for, and cooked Thanksgiving and Christmas lunches (with help from others). I led two one-hour cheerleading practices and communicated with 9 sets of parents about said practices. I baked frozen taquitos and pizza rolls for our Christmas concert at church and attended said concert. I glued tinsel around 12 little pine cone Christmas trees and took the trees and my little Daisy Scout to the nursing home to sing Christmas carols. I assisted at a first grade Christmas party.  I attended a preschool Christmas program.

And, oh, I managed to (sort of) run my home by cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, helping with homework, and driving people here and there.

(Whining over. You can begin reading again.)

This year, more than those in recent memories, I’ve felt just overwhelmed, overstimulated, and overfed. Because of a really busy work schedule this year in addition to school, church, Girl Scouts, and cheerleading, I’ve not had a lot of extra time to pay attention to what we were eating or getting the best price on gifts or planning ahead or going to bed on time.

I hate the hectic nature of the holidays. Hate. It. To me, it seems to be the antithesis of the true meaning of Christmas. When the things I usually enjoy become more of a chore, I know something is out of whack.

I regret our not having had more of an emphasis on Christ this season. Yes, we had our Advent wreath and readings and our church events, but somehow, it seems that I wanted more.

On Christmas night, I insisted we not forget to light our Advent wreath for a final reading. Our kids had been inundated (and I do mean inundated) by attention and presents all day long. I told Chris, “We are ending this day with Jesus!”

And so we did.

Can we make Christmas 2010 more relaxed and more focused on the things that truly matter? We shall see.

Mavis and Daryl at Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve

What’s more insane than Target on the Saturday before Christmas?

How about Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve?

Oh yea, baby.

You ask, And what’s wrong with you this year?

Yea, I don’t know.

Anywho, I had to go to Wal-Mart today to pick up some Wal-Mart gift cards for my nephews. They live in my small hometown that doesn’t have any place to shop (or socialize, for that matter) except Wal-Mart. And I usually buy my gift cards at Kroger except that Kroger doesn’t carry Wal-Mart cards.

Thus, the trip to Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve.

I knew I was in trouble when I got behind Mavis and Daryl in the 20 items or less line. I’m sure they had at least 21 items and Checker Girl took forever to ring their order.

So then, Mavis pulls out a 24-pack of Milwaukee’s Best canned beer. Checker Girl zaps the beer.

Mavis turns to Daryl. “Did you see that?”

“See what?”

“That was $12-something.”

“Twelve? It was supposed to be $6-something.”

“Do you want me to get it? If I get it, I ain’t getting any gas.”

“No. Put it back.”

“Do you want it? ‘Cause I ain’t getting any gas.”

“Naw.”

This back-and-forth continues with Daryl saying it’s fine to put the beer back, while Mavis is pledging to forgo essential fuel for this horrible swill.

I wanted to pipe up and say that if you are going to sacrifice essentials, it should at least be for some high quality beer. I mean, I’d rather “splurge” on some Diet Moutain Dew than Milwaukee’s Best, and really, Diet Moutain Dew is far better.

So, I’m kind of thinking Daryl has won this little argument and the family will, after all, get gas for the car when Mavis puts the 24-pack back in the cart.

“You decided to get it?” I asked her.

“Yea. That’s his Christmas present. He better not ask me for nothing else.”

Merry Christmas, Mavis and Daryl. I hope that Milwaukee’s Best was good while you were walking home from Wal-Mart.

Christmas Is Coming!

Christmas is now just days away. I must reflect a bit on this busy season.

Yesterday, I did a few final errands and picked up the last of my gifts. I braved Target on the Saturday before
Christmas. It was so crowded that all the shopping carts were taken when I got there. I decided that I wouldn’t allow anyone or anything get me angry. I was just going to go with the flow. I did pretty well.

This year, I wasn’t knocked over by suffocating perfume, but I did have to navigate around large groups of shoppers. I think it’s hilarious that Bubba and Betty Lou decide to bring the whole family–Grandma, Bubba Jr. and little Brittany–out to Target for shopping. Then they like to stand in the middle of the aisle and discuss LOUDLY what ideas they have for gifts.

People. It’s the Saturday before Christmas and you are in Target. You should at least know what you’re getting Uncle Ricky.

I’m zipping. Needing to zip. In and out.

Zip. Zip.

Get out of my way.

~~~

I gave myself permission this year to stop believing that:
a. I enjoy baking.
b. I can bake “gifts” for people.

And so, I was relieved of my baking burden and didn’t make anything for anyone. I don’t like baking anyway, but I like the idea of baking (that whole “I want to be that girl who bakes” issue that I have). But this year, I didn’t bake.

~~~

I’ve been working A LOT more this year than in previous years, which has taken quite a toll on my Christmas organization. Much to my disappointment, I’ve had to cancel plans to attend some social gatherings. Thankfully, I’ve not gotten sick-sick (knock on wood), but I have been sleep-deprived and headachey and kind of yuck. I’ve also simply run out of time. I had a bit of a crisis of schedule on Friday night. After a few hours of literally mapping out what needed to be done when, I felt a little better about managing my time. But I have to stick to my schedule in order to get it all done on time.

I really regret that this Christmas season has kind of evaporated. We’ve not been as consistent with Advent family worship as I would have liked. And I hate the moaning and groaning that I’ve done when an invitation has been extended to us: “Another party/event/program? One more place to be!”

~~~

Our garage door opener is stuck. And I just have to say that I love my garage and my automatic garage door opener almost as much as I love my husband and kids. And so, on the coldest/rainiest weekend of our fall/winter season thus far, our garage door decides to stop working. And so, hooray! Who knows how much that will cost?

And, also? The toilet in the guest bath has been having some flushing issues. I think it’s flushing at the moment, but the line may be partially clogged or something. OK. So my mother-in-law is coming tomorrow. I knew she’d need to use the bathroom. Not trusting the reliability of the guest bath, I decided I’d need to prepare the master bath for her use.

So I devoted about two hours a little while to cleaning my bathroom. It had been way too long  a little while since I had mopped my bathroom floor, but I was able to get it freshened up and passable for use. And that was just a fun way to spend my Sunday evening.

~~~

The Girl Scout troop went Christmas caroling tonight at the local nursing home. It was sweet and they seemed to enjoy having us. I am confronted by the effects of the Fall when I see these long-past vibrant folks being spoon-fed and wearing bibs. I was struck tonight by the extreme regression. How interesting is it that in one’s final days he or she must revert to children’s activities (making Christmas crafts)? They had a life-size Santa in the dining room and school-room-like bulletin boards. I don’t know. The juxtaposition of the vibrant children with life ahead against the backdrop of the men and women bound to their chairs, having the best of their days far in the past, was just unsettling. And sad. And it made me long for Heaven.

Movie Lovers: Visit the Netflix Holiday House and Enter to Win a Gift Basket From Netflix

Long before my kids were born, I worked for a Nashville publishing house. I loved my job and my creative co-workers, who happened to be movie fanatics.

We had a great time talking about our favorite movies and quoting scenes to one another.

Eventually, we swapped our lists of our “favorites,” even to the point we’d ask job candidates during interviews to name their favorite movies. I thought it was a lot of fun, not only to relive some memorable cinematic moments but also to discover some new movies and learn a little bit more about my friends.

So, as a nod to my former co-workers, I want to hear your top three favorite movies. Just comment below AND (here’s the best part!) …

When you do, you’ll be entered to win this AWESOME gift basket from Netflix with autographed CDs from Julianne Hough and Jennifer Hudson plus the following Netflix-branded items:

  • slippers
  • two luggage tags
  • one messenger bag
  • business card holder
  • soccer jersey



I’ll bet as you read through the comments, you’ll find some titles of movies you’ve never seen or you’d like to see again. Netflix can help with that!

Leave at least three favorite movies (more if you’d like) in the comments and you’re entered to win the basket.

Earn additional entries by:

  1. Tweeting the contest with this link
  2. Posting the contest with this link to your Facebook profile

(Please come back here, though, and leave a comment for each, saying what you did).

The contest will be open until midnight, December 21st. Winner will be announced Tuesday, December 22nd.

And because you asked (and because there’s NO WAY I could ever limit myself to just three), here are my Top Ten Favorite Movies (in no particular order):

  1. Gone With the Wind
  2. Cinema Paradiso
  3. Moulin Rouge
  4. It’s a Wonderful Life
  5. Waiting for Guffman
  6. Memento
  7. American Beauty
  8. Rope
  9. The Sixth Sense
  10. The Matrix

Visit the Netflix Holiday House

Nashville shoppers are in for a special treat.

The Netflix Holiday House is open today, December 17, at Opry Mills Mall in the Food Court. As Blonde Mom Blog says, you’ll probably just want to move in!

At the Holiday House, you can take a break from shopping, have a snack, and try out Netflix-ready devices for instant streaming of TV episodes and movies.

Take a much-needed break from the crowds and craziness and visit the Netflix Holiday House at Opry Mills today. You’ll get some great gift ideas for the movie lover on your list and learn about new ways to enjoy your Netflix membership.

Compensation disclosure: I have not been compensated for this giveaway but did agree to participate with other Nashville bloggers on this promotion. I agreed to do it because I thought it sounded like fun and am really excited for one reader of The Writer’s Block to win this great gift basket.


My Little Steel Magnolia

“The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.”

—Clairee from Steel Magnolias


Today I went to Susanna’s Christmas party at school. On my way inside the class, I stopped to browse the artwork hanging outside her classroom.

I quickly found her work. It was a writing assignment that had a glittered package on the top. The writing prompt beneath was something like, “If I Had Three Gifts, I Would …”

She wrote:

I would buy a home for someone who didn’t have a home.

(Awwww. How sweet!)

I would give them a couch and a bed.

(Such a heart of charity; such a good Samaritan, this child of mine.)

I would give them clothes …

(She really gets what Christmas is all about. She sees the needs around her, and she is moved to compassion. About to shed a tear, I read her last words.)

and jewelry to make them feel better.

Movie Lovers in Nashville: Come to the Netflix Holiday House!

Come See A Variety of Holiday Gifts for the Movie Lover

Nashville-area shoppers are encouraged to rest their weary feet in one of several rooms at Netflix’s Holiday House in the Opry Mills Mall. Lounge in the family room, a child’s bedroom, a teen’s hideaway, the media room or in the kitchen to instantly watch TV episodes and movies streamed from Netflix.

Not sure what to get the movie lover on your list?
Need a moment or two to rest during the frenzy of shopping?
Want to try before you buy?

Visit the Netflix Holiday House on Thursday, December 17, at Opry Mills in Nashville

The Netflix Holiday House features all the comforts of home from comfy couches, recliners, and beanbags, to hot cocoa, cookies, and popcorn.

Each room is equipped with Netflix-ready devices including the X-Box 360, PlayStation3, TiVO HD DVR, Roku Digital Video Player, and LG Network Blu-ray player, providing shoppers with the opportunity to try this holiday gift before buying it for a loved one.

WHERE: Opry Mills Mall – Food Court
433 Opry Mills Drive
Nashville

WHEN: Thursday, December 17, 2009
All-day

AND … make sure you visit The Writer’s Block on Thursday when I’ll be giving away an AWESOME Netflix gift basket! More details will follow. That’s just a little teaser for now.

WIN! A Perfect Gift for Grandmothers this Christmas

If your family is like ours, choosing gifts for the grandmothers is always a bit daunting. These two great women, who love our family so well, have everything. They have jewelry and clothing, appliances and tote bags.

What do they not have?

Authors Pam Ferriss, Susan Kelton, and Kathy March have written a new devotional book for grandmothers,
My Grandmother Is … Praying for Me.

Well, they don’t have a brand-new devotional book written by a trio of grandmothers, called My Grandmother Is … Praying for Me. (One of the authors, Pam Ferriss, is a good friend of mine and has been a sweet spiritual mentor to me for ten years.) And I’m telling you, any grandmother in your life needs this book! Don’t miss the opportunity to bless the women you love with the heartfelt and compassionate wisdom of these ladies.

My Grandmother Is … is a beautiful hard-cover book that takes the reader on a journey through the Book of Proverbs. Each page features a brief devotion for each day of the year. The devotions include a selected Proverb, a prayer, and an application of the devotion.


My Grandmother Is … is written from a grandmother’s perspective and is intended for a grandmother (though anyone who has a relationship with a child would enjoy this devotional). The application items are suggestions for grandmother and grandchild to spend time together learning the Proverb. Each month features a different character trait (such as wisdom, self-control, and honesty) with appropriate verses assigned to each.

The book is a beautiful keepsake that is also practical and accessible. The type is easy-to-read in a crisp, attractive presentation. The devotions are bite-size nuggets, perfect for even the busiest grandmother. As a writer and editor, I am so impressed with the breadth of creativity. In writing 365 devotions, prayers, and applications, these ladies never disappoint, always giving fresh and interesting treatments to each day, with appropriate content.

Most importantly, this book is a must-have guide to one of the most often neglected aspects of our Christian lives: consistent, focused, and intentional prayer. The grandmother who uses this book as a prompt for prayer can be assured God hears her and will answer her.

What better gift could you give your kids’ grandmothers this Christmas?

~~~

Visit the website to find out more about My Grandmother Is …, the authors, and to purchase copies.

~~~

WIN! WIN! WIN!

Win a copy of My Grandmother Is … Praying for Me from The Writer’s Block and the books’ authors.

It’s soooooooo easy to enter.

In the comments section below, tell me:

1. Your favorite verse or passage in Proverbs OR a creative way that you pray for loved ones.

To earn additional entries to the contest:

1. Post this contest link to your Facebook page.
2. Tweet this contest link on Twitter.

(Be sure to come back here and put in a separate comment for each additional way you enter. For example, you’d make a separate comment that says, “I posted to my Facebook page,” if you do so.)

The contest will be open until Sunday, December 13, at midnight. You may enter daily (all three ways once per day).

Winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 15, by noon.

Compensation disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book, My Grandmother Is … Praying for Me, for review purposes from the authors. The authors contributed a second copy to give away to a reader.

If I’d Only Found Him in 1995

As Chris and I chose music for our wedding, I was adamant that My Favorite Song be included.

My favorite Christmas carol is also My Favorite Song: “O Holy Night.” I love the minor tones and the extreme range of highs and lows. The lyrics beautifully capture the most important event in human history. Really, I could think of no other song more appropriate to mark the most important day in my life.

Chris would have nothing of it. That would be because we got married in the summer. On July 22.

I still maintain it would have been perfectly fine and who the heck cares anyway? It was my wedding. I have witnessed far more shocking things at weddings (sweatpants and baseball caps, for one; yes, I did) than the singing of a so-called unseasonal hymn.

But, anyhoo, I still harp on my dashed musical dreams every Christmas as I enjoy My Favorite Song each year.

I also enjoy this rendition. I only wish I had found this guy to sing at my wedding fourteen years ago. Certainly Chris would have relented, if I had suggested this version.