Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas time is here!

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year
Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share
Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there
Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...
(From the "Charlie Brown Christmas Special")

I love Christmas. I always have, always will. Some of my favorite family memories come from the Christmas season. The lights, the music, the snow, the excitement, the cookies, the presents (especially my first Christmas, when I was the present!!), and most importantly, celebrating Christ as the reason for the season. I thought I'd share some new and old Christmas memories with you this evening. Feel free to comment with your own traditions and ideas. :)

The lights. Since I was a country doll most of my life, looking at Christmas lights meant driving to a town a half an hour away so that we could look at people's extravagant light displays on their homes. I remember being pressed against the van window as the little girl next to me informed me that this was exciting and cool. I didn't have the heart to be tough and point out how overdone some of them were. Fast forward several years to my move to the big city, and you'll find this girl and I walking down the city streets, oohing and ahing over the beautiful (and tasteful!) lights in store windows and on street corners. She still likes the lights, and this time, I agree with her. :)

The music. I love Christmas music. I love the melodies, the lyrics, and the simple reflection on the humble manger scene. I've always played Christmas songs on the piano... and when the music gets too big for my tiny, fingerless hands, I let the little girl (now a big girl!) play them for me. Sometimes they get too big for her hands, too, so she leaves out a few notes. :)

The excitement. As soon as I arrived back in the country from the big city, I could feel how excited everyone was for Christmas Day. Little children squeal in delight about how they can't wait for Thursday. I spent time wrapping gifts and getting them under the tree. We're all ready and waiting for the big day. Christmas Day, we've always come down to the tree and found what's in our stockings. (I always crawl inside my stocking to make sure I didn't miss anything at the bottom.) Then, we have egg-nog, scrambled eggs, and coffee cake for breakfast. Our gift party is last.

THE SNOW!!!! I think we might actually have a white Christmas this year. I was snowed in on Sunday, and the wind is howling tonight. I know country dolls are supposed to be practical and realize how annoying snow can be... but I guess there's enough city doll in me that I find the snow romantic and special. I love how the world looks when it's white... :) (Besides, I don't think anyone would ask a little doll to move the snow... can you see me with a scoop shovel?)

Jesus. He's the reason for life, let alone Christmas. Without Him, we wouldn't exist. I'd say that's reason to celebrate, wouldn't you?

With love from an absolute doll,
Erin Joy
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reflections on the semester

Well, I survived. :)

Actually, I thrived. I'm sorry for not posting sooner, but time got away from me. With Old Testament papers, Doctrine quizzes, Music Theory assignments, and piano practice, I've been a bit busy. When I wasn't occupied in those ways, I was in class or spending time with my friends. I was so busy thriving that I never had time to blog. :( Now that Christmas break has arrived, I'll try to catch up on some blogging as well as sleep.

As I look back on the past semester, I'm amazed at a whole host of important lessons that God has taught me. The one that stands out is the importance and craziness of love... God's love toward me, my love toward God, and my love toward others.

Let's start with God's love toward me. I've been reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan (which I highly recommend, by the way). The book talks about how insignificant my life is compared to the greater scheme of the universe. God doesn't need me. God is completely sufficient in Himself (see Acts 17:24-25). To illustrate, there is a common comparison of life to a plotline in a movie or book. "Turning over a new leaf," "a new scene in the drama of life," and similar expressions are used frequently. But all of these figures of speech make the gross assumption that the movie of life is about me. In reality, it's about God. I probably don't even qualify as a supporting actress. Chances are, I'm an extra that appears for less than a second.

If this sounds humbling, it should. It's only once we're duly humbled and put in our place, and we realize how stupid, arrogant, and egotistical we have been that we can truly appreciate God's love for us. We have to realize that we're all tiny dolls compared to Him. Yet God -- the one whom this life is really all about -- cares about us. He loved us enough to send His Son to die for us. He could have started over from scratch, but He didn't. This blows me away. It's a kind of crazy, unconditional love that should bring me to my knees.

That's where my love for God comes into the picture. When I think about the greatness of God's love for me, and I realize how meager mine is in comparison, I see a huge problem there. God is so big, I am so small. He sent His Son to die for me, and I respond with trying to fit Him into a little corner of my life. God wants everything, not just a little corner. He wants me to live my entire life out of love for Him, doing it for His glory. This is easier said than done, because it manifests itself in loving others.

I joined a Bible study with some friends this fall, and in studying the book of 1 John, I've been pondering what it means to love other people. Loving people unconditionally (the way God clearly calls us to) means loving without expecting anything in return, with no strings attached. It sounds easy, but try it. To love others with no strings attached is to respond in grace, even when they don't. It is to put their interests ahead of your own, and to expect that attitude to be one-sided. All too often, we plan that loving will be mutual. We think that other people will respond in kind. (After all, how could you not love a little doll like me??)

When we're met with any resistance, we say that we "tried" love and it didn't work. Hmm... last time I checked 1 Corinthians 13 says that "love never fails." That's a hard one to swallow. Even if I can't see the benefits of this love, it still didn't fail. Besides, we're called to unconditional love. Love that insists on being mutual is no longer unconditional. The requirement of being loved back becomes an attached condition, and that's not the kind of love God expects.

It's hard to live life this way, and over the past weeks I've been realizing more and more how disgusting my attitudes are. I blow it so often... which is why it's so amazing that God loves me at all.

Well... pondering unconditional love, writing blog posts, and thriving in general are all a bit tiring, and I still haven't caught up on my sleep since finals week. See you later!

With love from an absolute doll,
Erin Joy

P.S. -- This post makes that signature have a little more meaning, doesn't it? By God's grace, I'll try to live up to it... but can you love me even when I don't?