Tuesday, December 27, 2016

On Being Single at Christmas

This year someone asked me if it's hard to be single over the holidays. My answer: "No harder than usual."

As a thirty-eight-year-old never-married, I've experienced my share of single Christmases; and I've found that as with most of life, the situation is sort of a mixed bag.

On Being Single at Christmas

Some Cons and Pros

Con: Sometimes I'm forgotten when it comes to holiday events and parties. Couples and families tend to gravitate toward other couples and families. It's not a complaint. Just a fact. Adult singles -- especially older adult singles -- tend to slip through the cracks.
Pro: Sometimes I'm forgotten when it comes to holiday events and parties. More evenings in to read by twinkle light and focus on Advent? Yes, please.

Con: I don't have a "family update" to mail to friends and family. I suppose I could still do this by myself: just a pic of me accompanied by a list of my recent achievements. But that sounds so awkward and self-serving - not to mention a bit like Facebook. Oh, wait...
Pro: I don't have to write a "family update." You will never catch me complaining about fewer deadlines.

Con: There aren't a lot of presents under the tree. Actually, my "tree" is really just a decorative stack of books swathed in garland and twinkle lights. It doesn't really have an "underneath." But that's a separate issue.
Pro: I don't have to wrap a lot of presents. Wrapping presents takes me forever, and they still turn out looking as if drunk toddlers wrapped them.

Con: There's no one waking me up early to share the wonder of Christmas morning. For me, Christmas morning starts the way every other morning starts. I wake up alone to a dark room, the only sound that of the air conditioner. (Yes, air conditioner. It was 84 here on Christmas day.)
Pro: There's no one waking me up early on Christmas morning! Hooray!

Con: The house is empty. I sip my Christmas Coffee in silence. Bare feet on the tile floor, my only companion the air conditioner ticking gently in the corner.
Pro: The house is empty. I sip my Christmas Coffee in silence. You sing of "Silent Night"? I glory in "Silent Morn"! 

Con: I have to cook the Christmas Bacon myself. Admittedly, this is much easier since I learned to bake it in the oven rather than tediously frying it in a pan and splashing bacon grease across the entire kitchen -- which, since I live in a studio apartment, meant splashing it across my entire home.
Pro: I get to eat all the Christmas Bacon myself! A childhood dream come true.

Con: It's easy to feel forgotten if no one texts or calls me on Christmas. I understand that everyone's busy with their own children and families and that most of the busyness involves tedium (mixing waffles, arbitrating between bickering siblings, and digging out AAA batteries). Reality is probably quite different from what my imagination tells me you're doing: snuggling together in companionable joy under the tree and sipping hot cocoa against a backdrop of red and green bokeh while Christmas music plays softly in the background. Meanwhile, I stand barefoot in my kitchen drinking coffee in the dark with only my air conditioner for company.
Pro: It's easy to take time to let others know they're not forgotten on Christmas. For me, this is what makes singleness work -- on Christmas Day and every other day. As counterintuitive as it might sound, when I turn the lens outward, singleness stops feeling like singleness. It becomes less a state of being and more an avenue through which I can bless others.

Of course, I was only alone for part of Christmas day. My family, friends, and church family blessed me beyond measure with a wonderful, heartfelt celebration complete with food, gifts, games, laughter, and memories. 

I'm very thankful for them and for this season - a season that commemorates the time that our Savior came to earth and lived as a single - not to be ministered to, but to give his life in ministry for others.

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Note: This post is a day late because I didn't realize yesterday was Monday. Like most Americans, I experience the week between Christmas and New Year's as an amorphous blob of time with no rhyme or reason.

But fear not! I fully expect to sort things out by next Monday and hit you on 1/2/17 with my 2016 reading retrospective. 

Get excited!

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Most Specific Gifts

People with December birthdays know the drill: our birthdays are so close to Christmas that one celebration just naturally bleeds into the other, often leading to a hodgepodge of birthsmas presents and celebrations.

Unless you're my family, that is. Most years, my family and friends go above and beyond to ensure that my birthday is special and distinct from the seasonal whirl, often turning my birthday into a birth week.

This year they outdid themselves with thoughtful Ruth-centric gifts: books, bacon, coffee, cheese, chocolates, imported packs of Tim Tams, a set of Hogwarts socks (Ravenclaw!), and -- best of all -- my very own framed portrait of Civil War heartthrob Joshua Chamberlain!

Yes, you read that correctly.
At this point, you might be wondering what Chamberlain has to do with anything.

That's just it. A portrait of Chamberlain isn't a generic placeholder gift like a scented candle or a coffee mug. It isn't a gift that just anyone would randomly scratch up.

This is a most specific gift -- a gift that only a friend or loved one would know to give.

Those who know us best give the best gifts.

They know our wants, needs, and desires and are willing to sacrifice time, effort, and funds to satisfy them.

In this way, our loved ones reflect God's love to us.

Better than anyone, he knows our deepest needs. He's always known; and, better still, he's always planned to meet them.

Our greatest need -- the need to be reconciled to him -- he's met in himself. He "took his own medicine," as Dorothy Sayers put it, by becoming human and enduring the Father's wrath poured out on the cross.

During December, we commemorate his birth, a birth infinitely more precious than any other.

The birth of One who is the source of all life, both physical and spiritual.

The One who made posible the real birthday of our lives.

Thee, God, I come from, to thee go,
All day long I like fountain flow
From thy hand out, swayed about
Mote-like in thy mighty glow.

* * * * *
Image attribution:
By Marco Verch (Geschenke in goldenem Papier) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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Monday, December 12, 2016

Grace After Grace

The more we suffer, the greater our capacity to recognize grace in the ordinary.

It's not until we've been truly hungry that we delight in the simplest meal. When we're weary and sore, bedtime comes as the sweetest balm. It's not until we've gone without hot water for an extended period of time that a shower feels like a miracle. Only after we've experienced disaster do we relish the sane quiet of another ordinary day.

This is the alchemy by which our Father converts temporary suffering to long-term joy. And in all ways our example, Christ is the firstfruits.

The Word became flesh
and took up residence among us.
We observed His glory,
the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth...
Indeed, we have all received grace after grace
from His fullness,
for although the law was given through Moses;
grace and truth come through Jesus Christ.
John 1:14, 16-17

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Monday, December 5, 2016

The 12 Days of Jane Austen Christmas

All together, now:

On the twelfth day of Jane Austen Christmas, my true love gave to me...


*12 Diving Darcys*

*.....*.........11 Vexing Vicars.........*.....*

*................*.....10 Nosy Neighbors.....*................*

*............9 Putrid Fevers............*

*...........*.......*.......8 Comely Cousins........*......*...........*

*...*......................*7 Silly Sisters*......................*...*

*........6 Figured Dances........*

*............*........5 Locks of Hair!........*............*

....*............4 Grand Estates............*....*

*................*..........*..3 Courtships..*...........*................*

*2 At-Home Plays*
and a
just for me!


In case you missed it:

Image Attribution:
By Cassandra Austen (1773-1845) - Owned by the Austen family; Kirkham, Margaret. "Portraits". Jane Austen in Context. Ed. Janet Todd. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 0-521-82644-6., Public Domain, Link