Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I wonder if Santa Claus procrastinates

Every Christmas that I've celebrated since since going away to college has snuck up and seemed to materialize from exam week like apparitions from an adrenaline shock, but with less and less luster. The past two Christmases have arrived minus the gift-giving and song-singing and the red-and-green heraldry and advent countdowns of so many years past. Once we've hit December, it's the academic traditions first, then the holiday festivities, that my friends and I have anticipated.

What made childhood and high school Christmases different? The buzz and the glow, the mildly intoxicating lure of the holidays that I've remembered and craved mid-October for the past two years but struggled to concoct come the last few days before December 25. Part-visual spectacle: The appearance of a place being wholly transformed by lights and metallic tones and ribbon, like walking through some hopped-up theme park within negotiable driving distance. The visual coordination of colors and decorations - it's abnormal to see, and I would get excited because the arrival of Christmas was like going to some fantasy land. Come college, and the departure of free time and any inclination to spend money, I didn't really shop, I didn't really decorate (less and less each year - a small tree and lights the first year, lights the second year; nothing this year), and I didn't see "Christmas" as I visually partnered the holiday when I was younger.

The music. Christmas music hasn't become any less enjoyable. But I'm not listening to it right now. When I've gotten in my car - this past week, to go to a friend's house to bake Christmas cookies, to shop for Christmas gifts for my family - I haven't tuned to the station playing Christmas songs. I think it's been mainly to escape the commercials. But the songs also don't carry the same magical wonder-excitement they used to have.

I wasn't disappointed when I outgrew Santa. I maintained the pretense for my sister, who was probably a year or two old at the time. I didn't feel deceived, I didn't feel let down. It was like coming to a common understanding, and it made sense. Santa was less a figment of my imagination than a symbol of a dated impression, a sense of wonder that had changed into something more concrete and rooted in strengthened values.

The things with which I associate Christmas: Hope, joy, peace, love. The kinds of transformation that couldn't be disagreeable - Christmas lights can be garish, but true kindness cannot - and the "magic" that Christ's birth conjures in people that is its own kind of wonderful. That's something that I now partner with Christmas, but not something that makes me especially look forward to the time. The date marks the time and serves as a reminder, but those are things I cherish year-round. And hopefully things I share with people year-round, too.

"Are you guys excited for Christmas this year?" Tracey wanted to know. I explained all of the above in a few words. "No, not really."

"That's sad."

Why? "Keep Christmas with you, all through the year" - a line from a Sesame Street Christmas movie I would watch every year when I was little. It's not so bad.

- -
On second thought (Christmas music): Traditional Christmas songs mean a lot more to me now. I mean them more when I sing them. "Joy to the world! The Lord is come. Let earth receive her king!"

"Remember, Christ our savior was born on Christmas Day to save us all from Satan’s power, when we were gone astray. Oh tidings of comfort and joy!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I have three hours to finish my history paper

"I'd like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve."


(Placeholder for future entries. This history paper is giving me grief.)

a writing sample! something i wrote yesterday for an alumni newsletter.

Imagine the patience required to reclaim the control freaks of the world. Particularly the well-intentioned ones who tell you one thing – “This is no sacrifice; here’s my life” – and within hours return to worrying and micromanaging. This past summer and semester have been an evolving, suprising lesson in patience. I entered the fall semester of my junior year ready to listen to God’s call. He’d been asking for my patience with life plans, interactions with loved ones and acquaintances, as well as something unidentified and upcoming. God is very good at waiting until He has your attention before completely turning the tables. This past October, our regional fall conference, Harvest, was themed “Playing for Keeps: All in for the Kingdom” and focused on Acts 6, obedience, and giving all parts of our lives to God. There were playful but sobering references to the times we claim to “go all in” for God while reserving “special poker chips” for ourselves that we don’t want Him to touch. It was an apt comparison because trusting God often feels like a gamble. Towards the end of the weekend, I became very aware that I’d been trying to make decisions that would give me predictable and controllable outcomes (mostly school- and career-related) and that the attempt to schedule my life so deliberately was a farce next to my promise to God to serve Him in all things. I don’t think God makes fun of us as much as He is puzzled or frustrated by our actions, but I’d be okay if He laughed really hard right now. I waited a few months for Him to send me a message; He’s been waiting all my life for me to understand that He has sovereign command over my life. My understanding is growing, but I’ve learned that God’s peace surpasses understanding, and compared to my patience, which I thought had been stretched, God’s patience is redemptive and wonderful. I’m not normally this grateful to have been put in my place.