Lord, have mercy.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife

The world has suffered long;

Beneath the angel-strain have rolled

Two thousand years of wrong;

-It Came Upon A Midnight Clear

———–

I first heard of Advent a couple years ago.

Technically we had an Advent calendar growing up, but it was really a Countdown to Christmas calendar.

And it’s days like that this that I wish we hadn’t allowed the season to be drowned out by Santa and his merry elves.

Because Advent is not the season of joyful exultation.

Advent is the season of anticipation.

It is everything that leads up to the manger. It is the broken world crying out: for answers, for healing, for salvation, for the presence of God.

It is the desperate waiting for a light to break through the darkness.

I don’t know why this part of the Christian calendar has been brushed aside.

Because we need Advent.

On days like this, we can’t escape humanity’s brokenness. We find ourselves face to face with embodied evil, and he’s human just like the rest of us.

And in the deep black of that night, we don’t need a cheerful snowman.

We need hope.

We need the promise of a savior who is making the world right, not just decked halls and a pile of presents and another twinkle lit marketing campaign.

———-

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

-O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

———-

This is the reality of the world we have created.

Where companies are more concerned with increasing the black numbers in their ledgers than with doing right by their employees.

And we’re all scrambling, panicked and desperate, because there’s so much to do. We’re trying to manufacture joy and buy our way into the Christmas spirit. And we’re failing. So we just keep trying harder.

And every morning I wake up to 25 new emails full of sales and deals and buy here! and buy now!

And if we bought those plates, the beautiful ones with the matching serving bowl, maybe there would be people to fill in the seats around the table.

And it’s such a lie, but it’s packaged by the very best salesmen. And we’re buying.

And people that you share a church with, that you worship next to, take your money and promise to do a job, promise to come through for you. And they just don’t. And the money’s gone.

And in Washington, men and women argue behind closed doors, taking pride in the fact that they have no common ground.

And another government is threatening chemical warfare against their own people, clinging to their waning authority. Everyone just clawing and grasping for any bit of power.

And then, my God, a man carries a gun into an elementary school. And opens fire on children. And there was no other goal, just the murder of the helpless.

And instead of unwrapping the gifts sitting under their trees, instead of snuggling them by the fire, instead of cookies for Santa, those parents will be burying their babies this ChristmasAnd there is no sense in that.

———-

And I want to run.

I posted that I don’t want to live on this planet anymore. And people suggested “to the moon” and “there might be a colony on Mars”.

But that’s not far enough. I don’t want another geographical location.

I’m longing for another place. I’m longing for a different existence.

I get in the car and I turn on the songs that ring deep in my soul, singing praise to a God that is in this with us, Emmanuel.

“You’re telling me that there’s no hope; I’m telling you, you’re wrong.”

You’re wrong. You’re wrong. I’m fighting for hope inside my own head. Clinging to a good God. Clinging to the story of the young woman and the shepherds and the angels and the baby in the manger-the one who promised peace.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.”

I’m singing it like a desperate plea.

Lord have mercy.

———-

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,

Whose forms are bending low,

Who toil along the climbing way

With painful steps and slow,

Look now! for glad and golden hours

come swiftly on the wing.

O rest beside the weary road,

And hear the angels sing!

-It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

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*Christmas is supposed to begin on the 25th of December, and then last for 12 days. (Hence, the song that never made one bit of sense to me).

It’s the final countdown.

That high-pitched whine you’re hearing is the sound of my anxiety.

.

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My mom texted me today because our cake baker quit.

After several conversations and emails about this cake.

.

I mean, she had my email address. Could’ve sent a 30 second message:

“Hey! So won’t be doing your cake after all. I quit. Screw those guys. I realize this is inconvenient for you, but thems the facts. Have a nice wedding!”

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I lied. Typing that took less than 30 seconds.

But, no.

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So thanks for that, chica.

Thankfully, cake is bottom tier of wedding things that are important to me, but still. I want to have some. That doesn’t look like a 4 year old made it.

Actually, my standards are higher than that. I want it to look better than I could do it myself, and I can make some dang good looking desserts, if I do say so myself.

So here’s hoping Edgar knows what he’s doing.

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So that just leaves programs, cups, chairs, tablecloths,
wrapping, video editing, photo scanning, moving, underwear,
plates & utensils, reception playlist, emergency kit, coffee carafes
Christmas presents, hot chocolate ingredients, s’mores, marriage license,
nails, make-up, dinner, exit strategy, thank-you notes, honeymoon packing,
gift buying for the wedding party tinies, my rehearsal dinner outfit,
fixing the errant wedding delivery I received last night, cake
and a partridge in a pear tree to figure out this week.

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I can literally feel my heart rate accelerating.

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So I’m thankful for the Peace on Earth part of Christmas right now. And for a four hour drive all to myself tomorrow to listen to my Yuletide Playlist*. And for a really great boss who gave me a week off.

And in one week, I’ll be together with all my family and dearest friends.

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Just gotta make it through the next 8 days.

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Then wedded bliss.

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*It’s actually titled Jesus and Mary, What a Great Day. And it fantastic. It’s the perfect mix of cheesy Amy Grant, off-beat cheer, and haunting hymns.

Weddings, money, and the Sacred

When I was a little girl, I suppose I imagined my wedding. I mean, all little girls in late-20th century America did. But mostly when I thought of my wedding, I imagined the vows, and exchanging rings, and my dad walking me down the aisle – the stuff that’s still most important to me.

We did own a dress-up veil with a beaded, elastic headband. But my only memory of it was putting it on our ever-gracious, red golden retriever, Molly. (In the pictures, she’s also wearing a hot pink bandanna as a necklace. She was always very fashion conscious.)

But while I was busy trying to imagine concrete features onto the abstract blur waiting for me at the end of the aisle, I wasn’t thinking about my dress (at least not beyond ‘it will be white’) or the cake (though I was certain it would not be white). And I never gave much thought to food or favors or centerpieces or the band.

I wanted to get married, but I never cared all that much about being a bride.

Enter The Wedding Industry, Stage-Left. When I logged onto TheKnot, the night I got engaged, I had 43 items overdue on my check-list.

———-

Then, learn the lingo before setting foot in a dress salon. Read up on silhouettes, necklines, trains and hues that might flatter you. The season will also affect your choice.
-TheKnot.com

———-

When I went to try on my dress for the first time, the sales lady practically ran to grab the most beautiful cathedral length lace veil (that I did not buy because it cost more than my dress) and pin it to my head behind a vintage headband (that I did buy because shiny).

She was bubbling with excitement, pinning and arranging and checking my reflection in the mirror. When she’d finished, she stepped back and sighed, “oh you just look so beautiful. Don’t you just feel like a bride?”

I tried to mimic her boundless smile and happy-salesy gushing. But it felt completely disingenuous.

It’s a dress. It’s a pretty dress, and it has pockets, which I think is really awesome. But at the end of the day, I’m going to wear it once. And then I’m going to stuff it in the back of my closet (once I have it preserved of course).

I keep joking that I feel like a terrible bride. Which is mostly a joke. But it’s also a confession. There’s a very real part of me that feels like I’m doing this all wrong.

———-

“Equip yourself with pens that you like to write with. Stay away from the cheap supermarket variety that make big ink blobs when they’re overused. [I have used ‘cheap supermarket’ pens my whole life, and never had that problem]… Mont Blanc makes some impressive models, if you’ve got the cash. Go ahead and have it monogrammed, as long as you’re in we’re-married-now mode. [Sure, go ahead. With the wedding over, your money is practically worthless now.]”

-TheKnot.com

———-

And I can easily point to advice like that and laugh, because it seems beyond ridiculous to me (like anyone will ever know what kind of pen you used to write thank you notes). But I have a harder time shrugging off the enormous presumptions that rain down from wedding magazines and pinterest and photography blogs and facebook posts.

Because those beautiful pictures simply do not convey the enormous amounts of money and the hours upon hours of work and the sheer ingenuity it takes to pull off something like that. I have never been a girl who wanted or valued a big, fancy wedding, and I was still a little blind-sided by the weight of expectation and the waves of anxiety.

Because I don’t have $50,000 to toss around (I know, shocker – I’m not secretly wealthy, guys). And if I did, I can pretty much guarantee that I wouldn’t spend it on this one day. The party’s just not that important to me.

———-

Look for a venue that’s both glamorous and bold. Opulence is key. Try an ornate ballroom with built-in decor that makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into the gold-gilded Palace of Versailles. Other options include a historic mansion, the atrium of an exquisite art museum or the dining room of a grand estate.

-TheKnot.com

———-

We carefully chose where to spend our money on the things that were most important to us, and for us that didn’t include a big sit-down dinner or an expensive dress. And even though we made every decision after much deliberation, with our family and our guests and our personal values in mind, I still feel the need to justify what we aren’t doing.

And yet, I’m constantly justifying the money we are spending to myself. Because I don’t know if I think it’s okay to splurge for the extra gorgeous photos or have a diamond ring or rent tablecloths, so that people don’t have to look at regular old tables.

I worry sometimes that I’m just flowing along, unthinking, in a culture that says “Buy! Buy! Now! You deserve it! You deserve happiness! And diamonds mean happiness!”

I keep thinking of all the other valuable things we could do with The Wedding Budget, and I wonder how much of this is really beneficial, to our family, to our relationship, to our community.

———-

9-11 months: envision your invitations
6-8 months: work out invitation wording and pick a style
research various invitation
finalize invitation wording
order invitations (don’t forget extra envelopes)
4-5 months: book a calligrapher
address those invitations!
2-3 months: pick up your invites
send them out promptly at the 3-month mark
-TheKnot.com To-Do List

———-

Obviously, we decided to have a wedding, and to splurge on a few things. And I really, truly couldn’t be more excited. But as the day draws closer, I have to admit that The World of Weddings has been a difficult one for me to navigate.

I cringe at terms like “happiest day of your life” and “it’s your big day/ it’s all about you” as though a wedding were merely an excuse to throw a party in honor of my existence rather than a celebration of two people and their families and the covenant they are making.

I don’t want to lose sight of that. I don’t want the sacred, beating heart of this event to be lost in the shenanigans.

I don’t want to forget what Jonathan Storment said: that weddings are meant to be a sign-post, that they are meant to remind the community of their own vows and to point toward a future reality.

A reality in which people might actually love each other like those In Love where out of love and mutual submission, we each place the other above ourselves, where their joys are our joys and we share their pain as if it were our own.

Because a wedding is never about the bride, and it’s not about money, and it’s certainly not about centerpieces. It’s not even about the couple, not really. It’s a symbol, a metaphor for what God wants to do with the world.

———-

But truth be told, the night after I bought my dress, as I was skyping with David, I imagined, for the first time, walking down the aisle in The Dress. And the face waiting for me at the end wasn’t a vague disembodied Someone. It was a 6’2″ man with gorgeous blue eyes and a beard I never pictured.

And I started crying, just a little. Not metaphorically resonant tears of God’s love for the world, just grateful tears for my own little corner of it.

On Monday, we give thanks

And sometimes on Tuesday when Mondays are hard and we don’t get around to it.

We just found out that some very dear friends, some of the most loving and gracious people I know, are enduring a very painful loss with their family.

The skies are dark,
sinking low, laden,
heavy with expectant rain.

And that feels right with my soul today, my heart breaking a little alongside people I love dearly. And I have a list of little things, one I made yesterday,

but today, I’m most thankful for the anticipated Christ child.

A promised light, breaking through our darkness.

Emmanuel, God with us. God, drawing near.

I wrote this just over a year ago on an old blog. A very different situation, but the same familiar sense of grief and loss.

——–

But here are the little things for which I am thankful.

  • Coffee and laughter and future plans with new friends. The joy of life with other people and new relationships.
  • The final countdown: we’re under three weeks, guys!
  • It’s snowing on WordPress. Every time I open my home page, tiny white dots drift from the top of the screen. If it’s going to insist on being 80 degrees outside, at least my computer understands appropriate weather patterns.
  • The new Fair Trade chocolate chips at HEB. I’m determined that as far as it is within my control, I won’t support human enslavement, economically crippling working conditions, and unsustainable growing practices. And coffee and chocolate are two of the worst offenders.
    I realize that it is an incredibly small (and mildly selfish) thing, but I’m grateful that I can support fair and just treatment of other human beings, and still be able to make chocolate chip cookies. (Plus, they are delicious.)
  • My new Christmas album: Christmas by Low. Which Stephen Thompson of NPR’s PCHH calls “cocoa for the soul”. And it is.
  • A really wonderful weekend with my parents. We ate at Pei Wei and picked up my wedding dress and did some Christmas shopping for relatives; it was really lovely.
  • The lighted garland I bought on sale at Target in lieu of a Christmas tree this year.

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Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

Always.

“It was always you.”

It sounds right.
Lovely even.
Like in the beginning.

way before life and mess and broken,
there was you
and me,
waiting,
destined.
No one else
ever had a chance.
But no.
I don’t believe in fate
and neither do you.

Not The One
or Mr. Right
or Perfect
or Meant To Be.

Just Adam and Eve
Again
Making a choice
Trying to find their way
back into the garden.

It wasn’t always you.

It became you.

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