Friday, December 17, 2010

Is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas?

Like so many other people, I have been thinking a lot about Christmas.

Ever sense I was a small child I could not wait for Christmas, I was the reason my parents came up with the, "you can't get up before the sun" rule on Christmas morning. I was just so excited and so ready to open up the gifts that I could not control my excitement any longer, and sleep for another minute. It may sound silly, but as my sister (who is six years younger) and I were growing up I can remember every Christmas eve, we would try and have a slumber party in a different room in the house. This always worked well because we would move before we would have to sleep in the bathroom :) Recently I have been thinking back to these moments a lot and trying to decide if I still have this excitement for presents. Like it is said so many times in the bible, we have a lot to learn from the innocence of children.

And as I think about this more and more, I am convinced that Christmas is not the same for me as it used to be. I would be lying if I told you that I did not like getting gifts, but for me Christmas is so much more than getting gifts but rather it is more important to give gifts. I am the type of person that starts shopping for Christmas presents the day after Christmas (which by the way, has great decoration sales). I simply love walking into a store and seeing that perfect present and buying it for important people. Then I love to spend hours and hours wrapping gifts, to make them look perfect so that it can be ripped to shreds within minutes. And then you know that you have done a good job when you see that smile on someones face. That is the moment that I can not get enough of.

I can not tell you how many times in the last week, I have been asked the question, what is the best present that you ever got. I also was asked the question (many times) what is the best gift that you ever gave. So for these two questions I thought that I would share my answers as well as some of my housemates answers. Here is what we said.

gave - Over the past four years, my aunt and I have gotten really close. So last year I decided that I wanted to get her something that I knew she would love, and would never by herself (but not be SUPER expensive). So I went to the store and circled the store many times, then I saw some football jerseys (which my aunt is a big Colts fan). Being in Illinois, however, they do not sell Colts jerseys. So on the way to family Christmas in Ohio (which was really pushing it time wise). But after a last minute stop on the way, I had my jersey and wrapped it in the car.

got - For some reason I can not get a stupid pair of pink boot slippers out of my mind. In 2003, my dad was very sick. It was our last Christmas together, before he died, which I think he knew at the time. He was getting ready to go to Switzerland to get medicine that they did not have in the U.S. so I thought that Christmas was not going to happen, because we needed all the money for dad. However, I was wrong, this was a huge Christmas full of excitement. Mom got us each several gifts, we got several gifts from santa, and then for the first time (I think ever) dad each got us gifts. I think that he knew that it was his last Christmas, so he made it extra special that year. The one gift that I remember are the slippers, that I asked him for. Thanks DAD!

Clara (thanks for typing yours up :):
Received - After approximately 10 years of writing HORSE in all caps at the top of each birthday and Christmas Wish-List, about two weeks before my 16th Christmas, the time finally came! My parents shared the news and left me jumping around the house waiting, oh so impatiently, for the arrival of my very own Quarter Horse mare! With her came a bridle, saddle, and most exciting of all a pregnancy! Diamond was due to foal in late spring! The absolute jubilee I found in my new horse and her coming baby far surpassed any other gift, and will probably hold the record for many Christmases to come!

Gave – My brother and I raised, exhibited, and sold livestock starting at age six. By the age of ten, we had tearfully parted with multiple market steers, lambs, and pigs. Pain that was only eased with the passing of time, and the coming of the pay check! The money we made at the fair amassed a small fortune for some ten year old farm kids who received no allowance. As encouraged as we were to save our money, Isaac and I became very interested in Heifer International. When Christmas rolled around, we pooled our fair money to buy two sheep in honor of our grandmothers. Not only were our grandmothers proud, but in the end we were able to share the gift of livestock with those in poverty. The gift of livestock, a gift that we knew all about.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with people that you love. The Elgin BVS House is quickly spreading east and west for the holiday season, returning to our homes.

Peace and Good Tidings!

Monday, December 13, 2010

December Ramblings

What a Storm!

Welcome to the deep freeze, my friends. At this point you may be wondering, "How bad can winter be? At least your roof didn't cave in!" To which I reply, "Shut up, you're ruining my blog!"

An intellectual might then ask, "Why don't you think of something else to discuss, rather than bring up the weather each week." Alright, smarty-longjohns, have it your way.

Don's guide to life in Elgin, or

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Caterers

Is there anything you can hate more than people who have it better than you? I'm speaking rhetorically, of course, I don't hate anyone - just say things under my breath at. Well, I can think of one: people who have it better than you, don't realize it, and complain about how bad things are for them.

Example the first:

The hardest part of today was deciding what to blog about. It's a fine line between humourous and crude, between thoughtfully new points of view and irrelevant slop. My life is so hard! I have to write this blog, and the best I can come up with is "Yep, it's still cold here!" In numerous countries tonight, thousands of emaciated children desparately try not to think about the lack of things in their stomach. My life is not so bad.

Example deux:

Today at work, I stamped, labeled, and mailed around 300 Christmas cards with the help of my somewhat-higher-up-but-not-quite-boss batman to my robin Cal. I worked 8 am to 4:30 pm, made dinner, talked with housemates, and then declined into a delirious state of mental inactivity known to most as "couch potato." Currently, I am warming myself with the heat produced by a laptop, though with the battery a shadow of it's former self it is eternally tethered to the wall, hardly retaining the convenience responsible for its fame. That is the worst thing about my life right now: my laptop battery stinks.

Meanwhile, in other cities, laptops are being stolen (and not returned, with no note regarding why and providing no contact information). Fellow volunteers work long hours, sometimes seven days a week, with little reward but the internal estimation that they are indeed doing the good they set out for. Indeed, for a sickening majority of souls, life does not afford the rewards so deserved, and yet for the privileged they come without asking.

Upon moving to Elgin back in the day in 2009, I was immediately struck by the dischord between church as a universal body of believers and church as an office building next to the highway. Some practices of the general offices offended me. I'm somewhat ashamed to say that every other Wednesday, a caterer provides snacks for the entire building. The food is quite tasty, but the fact that Sunday's donations pay for Wednesday's snack time at the office rather than, say, feeding the hungry children I mentioned earlier, digs away at my stomach.

Time to Learn Something

The subtitle for this post, how I learned to stop worrying and love the caterers, tells you that there has been an attitude adjustment. Still upset by a lack of austerity, I accept that it is not my role to police the spending habits of the seventy-odd leaders compiled into the office. People need time off or they burn out. Work is stressful, and some of the people in my building write and care for large sections if not all of the denomination. Sometimes you just need a stinkin' doughnut!

Compared to the conditions of the people our hearts break for, we have it easy. It should be hard for me to relate to even my fellow BVSers who try to withstand screaming clients, 80-hour weeks, and the occasional crime. If there's one thing I know, it's that I have it easy.

As Christmas surrounds (truly a season to me now), my letter to santa is quite short. I want to continue to spend time with friends new and old. To grow to love the place I find myself, wherever that is. My prayer is that I am not blind to the resources around me, the abilities in me, and the vast options ahead of me to better fit into the machinery of the holy body. Likewise, that I may, whenever possible, enable others to do the same, is the charge of my soul.


Christmas is upon us, so I will say, "Tis the Season for Random... Things."

Family Christmas Photo

Is it sad that the only sweater I own is an ugly one?

The workplace

View Larger Map

My Office (as seen from Google Maps)

The Only Guide to Tic-Tac-Toe You'll Ever Need

is right here

I didn't mention Bill Bryson once this time. Aren't you proud?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Here Comes the Son

Although it's COLD and snowy in Elgin, Florida was very bright, and comparatively warm! Carol and I traveled to Orlando to Disney World for the Youth Summit Workers Conference last week! We enjoyed visiting the parks and riding a few rides, as well as getting some rejuvenation and ideas for leading youth! 

I will start with a few more pictures to make sure you are all good and jealous before I get to the idea for this week's blog :) (insert evil laugh here)

Disney's Coronado Springs Resort- a quite exotic place to have a youth conference

Seems very strange to have tropical flowers blooming in December

Disney Sunset

The Magical Kingdom- where dreams come true

While being on a rather exotic vacation during BVS tenure is rather contradictory in itself, I experienced several other anomalies during the trip. I could never quite get the hang of Christmas in Florida. Although Disney made a conscience effort to decorate with tree, poinsettias and lights, it all seemed very out of place. One morning as I was walking from the conference center back to our room I heard the voice of Goofy singing from a speaker nestled beneath a palm tree, a fern, and some tropical flowers. In the spirit of the season he belted "White Christmas". Sorry Goofy, dream of snow as you may, I wouldn't count on palm treetops glistening with snow under clear and sunny Florida skies. 

With all this sunshine and warmth I'm not really sure how Floridians prepare for Christmas. Decorations, cold weather and snow really help me get into the Christmas spirit... but is it really the right spirit that I am getting into? Maybe the Floridians actually have it easier. After all, it's not the snow and twinkling lights that prepare us for what is actually coming. The Church of the Brethren Advent devotional lays on my night-stand tempting me to get into the real spirit of Christmas. Its title, Emmanuel. God Is with Us, quietly reminds me what it is I am really waiting for. 

Each year it is so easy to get caught up in the hustle of purchasing presents, traveling to visit family, and eating delicious food. Even this year, in a time where I am working to live more simply and in community, I find it difficult to push aside the material preparations and prepare my heart for the coming of Christ. I appreciate the reminders of the true importance of Christmas, whether it be an advent devotional, or a small nativity scene set up beside our Christmas tree in the BVS house. Let each of us be reminded of why we celebrate. So as we decorate, and buy a few gifts, and sing the lyrics of the familiar carols, let us also embrace the coming light, not just the sun, but Jesus himself. 

Said the king to the people everywhere, listen to what I say. Pray for peace people everywhere, listen to what I say. A child, a child, sleeping in the night he will bring us goodness and light. He will bring us goodness and light.