Thursday, December 26, 2013

The crib is not empty! (Merry Christmas!)

I have to admit that last night around 9 pm, I was really not feeling the Christmas joy.  Of all of the many Amazon orders I placed back in early December, almost all of them arrived much earlier than expected.  All, of course, except for one.  And that one included the baby doll I had ordered to fit in the crib that Justin built for Anna.  (Side note, it also included the envelopes to our Christmas cards, so for those of you on the list, don't be surprised that I'm stretching my normal Christmas card timeline (aligned both intentionally and due to the craziness of things with the 12 day season of Christmas) a bit further than usual).

The image of Anna turning the corner into the living room and seeing her new baby set up in her new crib has been the excitement that has pushed me through a draining week of preparations (having finally beat the super cold that nagged me for most of December, I was left to clean the entire house, bake, decorate, wrap, and finish several sewing projects in the last few days).  So when I realized that Amazon was definitely not going to meet their "by 8 pm on December 24th" delivery estimate, I tearfully declared Christmas to be ruined -  (sleep deprivation makes me both overly emotional and just a bit prone to exaggeration) - because Anna's new beautiful crib would be empty on Christmas morning.

I had a brief pity party, then went up and got ready for Mass, and very shortly after that was singing Joy to the World with the rest of the congregation - heart truly filled with joy for having realized that the wonder of Christmas is that the crib is not empty.  Jesus is there in the creche - and in the tabernacle and in our hearts - no matter the circumstances or whether or not things have gone according to plan.  In fact, He's all the more there for us when things do not go according to our plan; I doubt a stable would have been the perfect location if you asked Mary or Joseph.  In our imperfections, and when the rest of the world leaves us feeling disappointed and empty, we can go filled with awe to see the baby who, in His perfection, has come to save the world.

Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and may your hearts be filled with joy and love as you ponder that baby in the crib!!

I will note that despite the MIA status of our package, our Christmas was most definitely not ruined.  It took Anna only a few seconds to oust the stuffed toy I had placed in the crib and make herself comfortable.  She climbed out to open a gift, only to climb back in and read the book she had just unwrapped.  We enjoyed watching her enjoy the magic of Christmas morning.  She's old enough to understand the concept of opening presents, but not so old that she rushes the process.  In fact, I think there's still a package or two still wrapped under the tree.  She'll get to them eventually - probably about the same time that the missing box finally arrives with her new baby!

In one other note, the incredibly generous/thoughtful Justin Claus (who is also a talented carpenter, see above!) brought me a new camera!!  I'm hopeful that I can actually include pictures in upcoming posts without a "sorry I can't take good pictures" qualifier.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Wisdom of Waiting

Hi, friends!  So, first a brief disclaimer about the ridiculous fact that in the last 25 days, I've posted exactly one post (and a pre-written one at that!).  Apparently having the cold that never ends yet also not being satisfied with anything NOT homemade for Christmas (gifts for Anna, gifts for others, new Christmas stockings, Anna's Christmas dress, Christmas cards, etc) is a recipe for getting a bit behind on other things.  Especially when your toddler chooses the same 2 week period to learn how to climb up on 90% of the furniture in the house.

From the sounds of it, you probably think we're all-Christmas, all-the-time over here, but although there's plenty of red and green thread flying through my machine, we have yet to get our tree or decorate...or even listen to Christmas music.

I've written about Advent before.  Incidentally, two years ago I specifically mentioned that I would not advocate for a December void of Christmas music, and now this year I'm skipping ahead on Spotify when Joy to the World starts to play.  This isn't a post to tell you that you're wrong if you're belting out Joy to the World, or to convince you to hold your Glorias until Christmas Day.  It's just a reflection on what I've learned this year by doing just that.

Encouraged by Haley's post and others I've read (as well as dear friends who observe Advent very intentionally), I decided to really foster the anticipation this Advent.

There aren't a ton of Advent songs, but I have found such wisdom in listening to them over and over again.  They're so rich, and I never heard all of the beautiful theology by singing them once through on each of the Sundays of Advent.

I expected by this time in December that I would be really excited for Christmas to come.  I am, of course, but what I have found is that it is significantly overshadowed for my desire for Jesus to come.  I'm looking forward to seeing my sweet little girl in red footie pajamas find the presents under the tree, but it doesn't compare to the deep longing for the love of Christ to sweep over our world and our homes and our hearts.

In the past few weeks, it seems like we've found out about a lot of friends who are facing struggles - sickness, loss, the effects of living in a fallen world.  Seeing people I love hurting makes my heart heavy, and I yearn for all of the pain and suffering to be wiped away.  I've been frustrated by my own struggles to be the person I'm called to be, scared of what the future brings in a year of transitions.  And so I sing along (on repeat):

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
hope of all the world thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to they glorious throne.

What's the lesson in all of this?  There's wisdom in waiting, and in discipline.  I don't think I would have experienced such a deep desire for Christ's love, for his forgiveness, and his saving power if I had skipped over O Come, O Come Emmanuael for Joy to the World for the last few weeks.  And when I DO sing Joy to the World (for the first of many times) on Tuesday night, there's going to be far more joy than I could have mustered back on December 1.

The constant earlier and earlier creep of Christmas celebrations is the perfect illustration of a world that wants instant gratification.  No one waits for anything anymore.  If something is good, the logic goes, we should have it all the time.  Take one look at our over-sexed culture for a reminder of that.  But, by definition, something special can't be special if we have it all the time.  It's impossible to sustain the excitement of Christmas morning for two months, and hearing Christmas music in the store while you're shopping for your Halloween Party (true story) isn't exciting, it's just annoying.

Just like the Church's teaching on sex and marriage, I'm sure people could hear about the discipline of Advent and think that Catholics aren't supposed to have any fun.  When the world hears "wait," it is misinterpreted as "no."  But what "wait" really means is - there is something so incredibly awesome coming; don't let it get watered down.  And get yourself ready!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

25 facts (a guest post from my younger self)

Well, well, well, remember when I used to write on my blog??  Our Thanksgiving travels were almost a week long (several of those days - refreshingly - without internet), and I'm knee deep in trying to get back into routine, get out our Advent wreath, finish my Christmas shopping, etc, etc.  Somehow I've convinced myself that if I work really hard and get everything done now, I'll be able to relax and have a peaceful, quiet remaining few weeks of Advent in which I really focus on getting my heart ready for Baby Jesus (instead of gifts ready for Christmas).  I'm not sure it was my brightest idea, but it has motivated me to almost finish shopping (poor UPS guy next week!).  Amid all that is going on, I haven't had a chance to write a blog post, so I'll publish this one, which has been sitting in my blog drafts folder for a few months now...

I happened upon this on Facebook the other day, written by me in 2009.  At that time, I was living at home in Harrisburg and working for Deloitte Consulting.  Justin and I weren't yet engaged.  You may or may not find this as interesting as I did to revisit now.

So, it's all the rage (or not the rage, according to Time) to post 25 random facts about yourself. Secretly, I've enjoyed reading the lists people have written, and I even intended to write my own prior to being tagged. I was now tagged at least 5 times, and I have been sick with mono for at least 5 days that should be reason enough for 25 facts. So, without further ado:

1) I'll start with my standard Deloitte fun fact: I didn't ever fly until I started working for Deloitte. I got acquainted with airports fast with 11 flights in 3 weeks.

This was always really impressive to my jet-setting colleagues.

2) Now that I'm not afraid to fly, I have plans to visit all four corners of the US this year. I was already in Arizona, and have tickets to fly to Florida this March. I'm hoping to go to Washington in May, and a wedding in New England this summer.

Never made it to Washington.

3) My worst injury ever was a broken arm from a game of musical placemats (the family didn't have enough chairs for the entire birthday party; I slid in arm first, and another (bigger) girl slid in seat first).

Thankfully, still haven't topped that.

4) I didn't get my drivers license until after I graduated from high school. 

I rarely remember this anymore, but MAN that was a huge deal then.  Now that Anna's here, I'm feeling my 18 was a little young to get a license (just like Justin says she won't date until 30!)

5) My only real regret in life is that I quit track after only a week in junior high.

I just thought about this the other day, actually.  Still my #1 regret (and I don't have a concrete #2 on the list).

6) My favorite song of all time is "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" by Billy Joel. 


7) My "bucket list" includes making a quilt (check), buying and restoring an old house, standing on the Four Corners, seeing Mt. Rushmore, learning ballroom dancing, and snorkeling in the tropics. Also, most importantly, making a difference in someone's life.

Check on the buying and restoring the house :)  I'm getting closer to convincing Justin that ballroom dancing lessons are a good idea.

8) The most infamous family story regarding my childhood is from the time our new paint in the basement set off the fire alarm in the middle of the night. I thought back to my recent school lessons on fire safety and literally "stopped, dropped, and rolled" down the hallway. (Run a few steps, stop, drop, roll, stand up, run a few steps, stop, ... repeat). All the while, my then two-year-old brother stood on the foot of his bed yelling "Save me! Save me!" New paint is dangerous stuff.

I thought of this every time we painted here.  No repeat performances have been logged to date.

9) I tend to find something I like and run with it. I applied to only one college, one internship, and one job. Thankfully I was accepted to all three.

And I'm married to the first guy I kissed.  This theme does not hold true for buying houses - we lost bids on two before we ended up here.

10) If at all possible, wherever I live, I would like to have a piano, a sewing machine, and an aquarium.

I'm at 1 1/2.  (The goldfish is in a bowl).

11) Although I make jokes about it all the time, I secretly love my 1990 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight. I'm going to be sad when it dies and I have to buy a more age-appropriate vehicle.

Now that I have my Honda I do not miss the Eighty-Eight.

12) Many people from high school don't recognize me, despite the fact that graduation was less than 5 years ago. Sometimes this makes me proud (I was a really, really nerdy highschooler) but sometimes it makes me sad.

I'm much more comfortable in my skin now, so I feel and look different, and that's OK by me.

13) Hearing a child's laugh (even if it's just on TV) will completely make my day.

Anna.  Everyday.

14) I think that Dress for Success is one of the coolest non-profits out there, and I think that my dream job is somehow embodied in what they do.

I learned that working on the front-lines in a non-profit was not as dreamy as I thought.  New dream job = non-profit consultant.  (I liked the consulting work and the non-profit mission).  I've done a bit of this as a volunteer in the last few months, and it's been great.

15) My other dream job is to be a stay-at-home mom. But not yet.

Check.  (Although not without its own challenges)

16) I firmly believe that every single human being was put on this earth for a reason, and that they have something important to offer. I find it really sad when people don't recognize this in themselves or in others.

Still makes me sad.

17) I am fascinated by languages, and wish that I spoke more than simply English.

I speak Baby now.  Does that count?

18) Although I can't speak any other languages per se, I learned to play the piano before I went to kindergarten, and in that sense reading music is as natural as reading words.

True dat.  Although I'm getting rusty!  (See #10)

19) After the most stressful and tiring days at work, I get out my coloring book and crayons. 

I can't wait until Anna is past the tasting crayons stage!

20) I'm incredibly blessed to have my mom's cooking everyday, but ironically there are a few things from Bucknell Dining Services that I miss.

Either would be nice these days :)

21) Sometimes I think I am better suited for the 1950s. Except that I prefer Mass in English.

If anyone comes across a time machine, let me know.

22) I love to spend a sunny day outside, get tired and dirty, then take a shower and get dressed up to go out for dinner. This is one of the few reasons I enjoy the beach.


23) I love to hear stories about how couples met. For the record, I came back from class freshman year to find Justin sitting on my beanbag in my dorm room. He was studying Chemical Engineering with my roommate. 

The comments section is over if you want to tell me your stories...

24) The only subject I truly disliked in school was Astronomy.

When I asked my mom in high school how I would ever use that subject, she said perhaps on a future  romantic date I would want to be able to point out the constellations.  Justin knows enough Astronomy to get us by.  I still don't really care.

25) I'm the first college graduate in my family who does not have a degree from Penn State. (My grandfather earned his doctorate from PSU and was a professor there, and both my parents and their collective 7 siblings are graduates)

My brother graduated from Johns Hopkins, but now he's at Penn State Hershey for Medical school.  I'm still the odd-ball!

It was really fun for me to revisit these facts.  It's cliche', I'm sure, to comment on how I feel I've grown in the last 4 years, although at the core the most important things to me are still the same!  Finding this list was another reminder of why I like to blog - having the record of thoughts and feelings down the line is so worthwhile :)