Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Carols

My favorite music at Christmas are the traditional carols and hymns that have been sung for hundreds of years . They impart a timeless joy and hope during this season of anticipation, and breathe a peace, solemnity, and cheer that transcends generations. Some carols speak of goodwill to others (such as Good King Wenceslas), but most are of Christ and his birth. Penned ages ago, in a time that knew great illiteracy, suffering, and loss, these songs impart the gospel and speak of hope and redemption in a simple way but it is their very simplicity makes them complex and enduring. And though we continue to hear them today, we often forget to listen to what the carols are saying to us. I would encourage anyone reading this blog to read the history and lyrics of songs that you may have heard a hundred times already this Christmas season, to reflect on their words, and then to listen once again and see if you haven't gained a new appreciation for them. :)

The 12th century Wexford Carol (lyrics here), performed beautifully by Alison Krauss and accompanied by YoYo Ma

Ding Dong! Merrily on High (lyrics here) and In the Bleak Midwinter (lyrics here), both performed by King's College Choir

French carol circa 1553, Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella (lyrics here); musical version by Fernando Ortega

Let all Mortal Flesh Keep Silence is a 4th or 5th c. chant, whose present day text is based on the liturgy of Saint James. Unlike other carols, this one speaks not just of the Incarnation of Christ, but of his anticipated redemption and of his eternal reign. One of my favorite versions is performed simply but beautifully by Fernando Ortega.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 5: Favorite Holiday Movie/TV Show Special

Picking a favorite Christmas movie is much like picking a favorite Christmas book - it's just so hard to not like them all equally! The movies I enjoy watching every year vary from classics like Christmas in Connecticut, The Shop Around the Corner, and White Christmas to The Muppet Christmas Carol (am I the only one who thinks that Michael Cain is the best Scrooge ever, bar none?!), the Poirot Christmas episode (can't remember the exact title offhand), and The Chronicles of Narnia (even though it isn't exactly a Christmas movie, I think of it as such).

Day 4: Tips/Tricks to a Budget Friendly holiday season

I wish that I had some knowledge to impart about this subject but sadly, I don't have any beyond what I stated already on the Black Friday note. :) I know that I've found that sometimes driving all over town to get a deal is not worth the time ("time is money", or so they say!), especially if it's only $10 off of $30, or 15% off of $50, or what-have-you deals that show up around Christmas. For myself, I discovered that I actually save money by just buying what I need when I need it, or, if I don't need it immediately, waiting for it to go on sale. I also save money by staying out of stores who are having huge sales all the time because I'm usually tempted to spend money on things I don't necessarily need because it's "a good deal". I try not to get caught up in the "gotta get it now because it's going fast and it's soooo cheap" shopping frenzies because then I end up buying something I didn't plan for and I end up feeling that I have to give it to someone in order to justify the purchase. Silly, I know - but there you are. :)

Day 3: Most meaningful gift/best gift you've received

After 20+ years of gift receiving, it's so hard to remember which gifts were most meaningful. I've loved every gift I've ever received (okay, except some thoughtless gifts from parents who had obviously thrown whatever was handy into a gift bag for their child's teacher :) ). Gifts don't have to be expensive or a "hot item" to be appreciated - I know that I love the gifts that are thoughtful, handmade, relate to something I enjoy doing or are little luxuries that I don't often buy for myself. I think what makes Christmas gifts unique, special, or meaningful is not just the gift itself, but the intentions and thoughtfulness of the giver behind it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 2: Black Friday/General Shopping Tips & Tricks

I've tried deal-finding on Black Friday but never have much success. I think if you're planned and can map out the deals on BF, then it must be a great way to knock out your Christmas shopping at once and enjoy the season without feeling that you have to shop every day for someone. As for myself, I don't enjoy the feel of rushed, frenzied shopping - it feels so chaotic and cheerless. I love spending time looking for gifts that are meaningful and will please the person I'm giving it to. If I can save money, I do, but not if it ultimately is inconvenient or stressful trying to get a deal on it. I use sales if they're convenient, or just purchase at places where I can get a discount, such as Target (I save 5% with the debit card), Barnes and Noble (members get 10% off every day), or (students get a free year of Prime membership). This year my sister and I are making some of our gifts in an effort to have a more hands-on, meaningful Christmas.

Day 1: Christmas/Holiday traditions

I don't have my own family yet, so I'm not sure what traditions I will incorporate one day when I do. The traditions that I remember and still love are the ones that my family has created over the years. Looking at Christmas lights with my family - as we've gotten older, it's not only become more enjoyable, but often hilarious. Making shortbread from an old family recipe. Drinking peppermint mochas. Watching favorite Christmas movies. Listening to holiday music. Getting my yearly ornament (my mom gives ornaments every year to her children and grandchildren - she spends a lot of time finding ornaments that relate to something specific that we have enjoyed during the year, or is just something that we like (mine is usually espresso related). The Christmas Eve party at my grandmother's and then the midnight Christmas Eve candlelight service at my church - a beautiful and hushed way to welcome Christmas Day every year.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas

Some friends have been doing this on facebook for the past week and while I was a little skeptical at first about joining in, I finally gave in after deciding that it looked enjoyable and easy enough since you write only one a day. For 12 days you write your answers to the topic of the day. It's simple, fun, and a great way to share some special things one enjoys about Christmas. I have decided to also post them here, in addition to facebook, for anyone's enjoyment. :)

The 12 topics:

Day 1: Christmas/Holiday traditions

Day 2: Black Friday/General Shopping Tips & Tricks

Day 3: Most meaningful gift/best gift you've received

Day 4: Tips/Tricks to a Budget Friendly holiday season

Day 5: Favorite Holiday Movie/TV Show Special

Day 6: Gift ideas (what do YOU want? We all have family/friends reading our let them know!)

Day 7: Holiday Craft/DIY (If you don't make anything, what do you WISH you could make?)

Day 8: Least favorite thing about the Holidays

Day 9: Favorite Holiday recipe

Day 10: Favorite Christmas Songs/Caroles

Day 11: Favorite Cookie Recipe

Day 12: Oprah's Favorite Things: What item(s) would you want if you were in the audience? (have decided to skip this question on the blog - any suggestions for a replacement question? :) )

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Hard to believe, but the month that took so long to arrive (for me, anyway) is nearly over. I love this time of year, when fall finally arrives in Texas. Only recently have we been able to enjoy our typical fall sights and sounds - everything from burnt red, orange, and yellow leaves that permeate the air as they flutter from trees, the early morning dew that glistens on the still-green grass, the crisp air, and the growing anticipation of the winter months to come (which, for us, are January-March). Even nature becomes more active at this time of year, and below are some photos that my photog brother, Landon, took recently. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


my newest niece, Kristyn!
She decided to come while her Mimi, aunts, and Uncle Landon were in Boston. We were sad to miss her birth, but so delighted for her safe arrival.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


This small town on the Mystic River (which runs out to Long Island Sound) was teeming with small-town Americana, historical buildings, summertime visitors (including us), and friendly locals. My cousin and her family are moving there next month, so I anticipate more visits in the future to this cozy little town.

Mystic River dock

the bridge that connects the two parts of Mystic

the bridge going up

boats sail through

lovely old church that anchors the downtown main street

Mystic/Noank library

the docks were perfect for jellyfish and crab watching

the small, pleasant beach in nearby Stonington

it felt even older and smaller than Mystic

check out the narrow street - it can only hold one car at a time

we couldn't believe the vibrant hydrangeas that were everywhere

the pictures fail to do them justice

I fell in love with the old homes in Stonington

our inn at dusk

the everlastingly busy snack place across the street. Not just any snack place, they've apparently been featured in the Boston Globe

the old part of our inn

the gardens

it was very peaceful and still here

garden pond

and waterfall

Mystic shipyard and harbor

Why, Hello There...

I'm alive - really, I am. I know that by the looks of the old post below you might think differently, but I'm happy to announce that I'm still around. I've been much quieter due to a very, very busy spring and summer. I have managed to squeeze in some reading nonetheless (I would sooner stop breathing than not be able to read) and even some traveling. In June I went to Florida with my wonderful friend from North Carolina. It was a time of much-needed refreshment and fellowship. Unfortunately, I was too busy to take pictures - and there wasn't really much to photograph anyway.

In July, Ashley and I went to the East Coast for an extended 4th of July weekend with our cousin and her family. The weather was beautiful for the first two days we were there and then the heat that had followed us from Texas showed up and managed to scorch the otherwise cool Connecticut shoreline for the remainder of our stay. One advantage Connecticut has over Texas when heat waves show up is that no matter how hot the temps are during daytime, it will without fail cool down at night. Below is a photo of the Mystic river at sunset. More pictures to follow!

Monday, May 24, 2010


I just finished this lovely story by Charlotte Bronte. Not easy to follow along at first, it grows interest and depth as it plods on until you are caught up in the remaining chapters, eager to know how in the world it can take someone so long to propose to the girl he loves?! It lacks the poetic, gripping style of Jane Eyre and the powerful message of the epic Villette, but it is a lightheartedly romantic story with a sweet ending - this from a Bronte is novelty enough to induce an interest if you've always thought of them as storytellers of dark, depressing romances. You would be right, by the way, but you would have to exclude this story from that label, for it stands on its own - if not for the narrative, then assuredly for its testament that Charlotte Bronte was indeed capable of writing outside of her genre.

Friday, April 23, 2010

This Was Grace.

As someone who works in a church, I am always amazed at how deeply our culture has penetrated the family of God with its worldview that human life, if less than perfect, is not worth living. And while my coworkers would claim a "pro-life" stance, their attitudes towards disabled babies, and the horror of having more than three kids, speaks loud and clear of their paradoxical stance regarding the value of human life.

I believe that we, as Christians, have to speak up for the rights of the unborn. I believe that we have to educate Christians on the difference between God's values and the world's values. I believe that rampant abortion is a judgment on society; that we have been allowed to kill innocent human beings for so long now, without consequence, seems to signify (to me anyway) that God has withdrawn his hand of mercy from us.

Thankfully, some Christians are fighting for people with disabilities, like this family, who share their story in this video. What a beautiful testimony...

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Ah Holy Jesus

Ah, holy Jesus, how hast Thou offended,
That man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by Thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.

Who was the guilty- Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
'Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee!
I crucified Thee.

For me, kind Jesus, was Thine incarnation,
Thy mortal sorrow, and Thy life's oblation;
Thy death of anguish and Thy bitter passion,
For my salvation.

Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
For our atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
God intercedeth.

Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay Thee,
I do adore Thee, and will ever pray Thee,
Think on Thy pity and Thy love unswerving,
Not my deserving.

music and story here.

Not My Deserving

I meant to post this yesterday for Good Friday, but obviously I didn't. Here are my reflections from this week:

Another year, another Holy Week, another time to reflect and ponder the story of atonement and redemption. Last year I journaled my way through Lent, writing my thoughts, poetry, and certain hymns or Bible verses that impressed me during that time. This year I prepared for Easter week by beginning a fast on Ash Wednesday, seeking to abstain from a pleasure in order to exercise self-control and to prove that there is nothing earthly that I can't give up for my Savior, or that can give me greater pleasure than He, His divine and Holy Being.

Being reflective during Easter time (or Christmas, or anytime, for that matter) is difficult in our culture. We like noise, we like being busy, we like saying that we don't have time for anything, all the while being busy with the things we want to be busy with. In this way, we distract ourselves from disturbing thoughts, like our part in the story of the cross, and so manage to sanitize the Easter story not just for children, but for ourselves as well. The fact is, the story is not sanitary; it is full of wickedness, depravity, and rebellion against a Holy God. Yes, it's about you and me. That's our part in the story. It is so easy to think that because we haven't murdered, or stolen, or insert-bad-thing-here, that we are good people. I have never known anyone to actually admit that, yet how often is that inner thought exhibited in our lackadaisical approach to Easter, or to worship anytime throughout the year? I am grateful that in my church, a large emphasis is placed on reminding us that we were dead people - dead. I need that reminder. I forget all too easily my desperate need for a Savior. I need my pastor telling me that I was lost in sin but Christ, in His mercy and love, offers redemption through his atoning work on the cross. I believe that we cannot fully understand grace unless we first understand the depths of our sin. If we think that God didn't save us from much, then His grace will only mean that to you. If you understand that your sin nailed Him to that cross, that you cried out with the scoffers that day, that your voice called for His crucifixion when He had done no wrong, then His mercy will mean the world to you, and you will be forever transformed.

If you didn't this year, make next year's season of Lent an opportunity to be still, to put away something that distracts you from reflecting on God's mercy and grace, and His love unswerving - not our deserving.

Friday, March 12, 2010

I couldn't resist posting this WPA poster from the Library of Congress after seeing it on another blog. Read about its history here. Then go and read the books you've always meant to read...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Poverty and The Gospel

Milton Vincent:

Like nothing else could ever do, the gospel instills in me a heart for the downcast, the poverty-stricken, and those in need of physical mercies, especially when such persons are of the household of faith.

When I see persons who are materially poor, I instantly feel a kinship with them, for they are physically what I was spiritually when my heart was closed to Christ.

Perhaps some of them are in their condition because of sin, but so was I.

Perhaps they are unkind when I try to help them; but I, too, have been spiteful to God when He has sought to help me.

Perhaps they are thankless and even abuse the kindness I show them, but how many times have I been thankless and used what God has given me to serve selfish ends?

Perhaps a poverty-stricken person will be blessed and changed as a result of some kindness I show them. If so, God be praised for His grace through me. But if the person walks away unchanged by my kindness, then I still rejoice over the opportunity to love as God loves. Perhaps the person will repent in time; but for now, my heart is chastened and made wiser by the tangible depiction of what I myself have done to God on numerous occasions.

The gospel reminds me daily of the spiritual poverty into which I was born and also of the staggering generosity of Christ towards me. Such reminders instill in me both a felt connection to the poor and a desire to show them the same generosity that has been lavished on me. When ministering to the poor with these motivations, I not only preach the gospel to them through word and deed, but I reenact the gospel to my own benefit as well.

- from A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See The Glories of God's Love, pp 38-39

HT: Justin Taylor

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Global Warming Today

I found this blog post by Doug Wilson pretty amusing. It is rather odd, isn't it, that an entire world can believe something semi-false just because an "authority" on the matter told them it was so. The money and power that resulted from the global warming theory was really astounding. Even more so was the way people bought into it hook, line, and sinker, purchasing their carbon offsets because they were told to do so. No one ever thought to question where the money might be going and whether it was a truly effective program for climate change. I have long thought that the buying of carbon offsets was something akin to the medieval purchasing of pardons: do something bad (like fly your private jet, as Al Gore and his celebrity minions do), confess that you know it's not the best thing for the environment - but hey, I'm going to make it up for it, okay?! - then purchase your pardon in the form of lots of carbon offsets. I'm not saying don't take care of what God has given. I am personally sad to think that it will take thousands of years for our plastics to biodegrade. At the rate we use and throw away plastics, what will our earth look like even just a hundred years from now? That said, I refuse to buy into a science that was created by a group of people to further their own careers. If people would stop checking their brains at the doors of climate change conferences, we might do more good than harm in helping to solve waste problems around the world.

Just an observation in closing, but this has been a record winter here in Texas. For the first time that we can remember, we had a white Christmas. Then, only two weeks ago, we had a mighty 12.5" snowfall. God does indeed make foolish the wisdom of the world...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Yes, I'm Still Here

It's been awhile, I know. Life is crazy, and I thank you if you still check this blog. I'll try to be more worthy of your time and attention. :) I got interrupted from the visual look back at last year, and then when I wanted to return to it, I thought that so much more had occurred, so much had happened that wasn't caught in pictures. I may continue to post some photos as a look-back, but for now I just want to resume blogging. I do miss it and hope to be more regular.

For starters, I took a break from my emails, essays, and work to check a few blogs I haven't read in awhile. One is Radical Womanhood by Carolyn McCulley, who is, simply, an inspiring woman. In her most recent posts was a link to this story from the Washington Post, which addresses a new technology being used to find brain activity in people who are in a vegetative state. Not surprisingly, people in comas are capable of using their brains even though they often have minimal or no physical activity/function. Ms. McCulley went on to reflect on this amazing story, of a young man who was thrown into a coma after an accident. After four years of loving care from his parents and girlfriend, he has made an amazing recovery. Please read the story, you can't help but be moved and inspired. On their blog, I saw this post which could be one of the best responses to suffering I have ever seen.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Looking Back: 2009

Kathryn hunts for eggs

Main Street Arts Festival

The ducklings are growing
Ellie is born!
(she is actually a couple of weeks old in this picture, if you couldn't already tell) :)

Dad and brothers take a fishing trip to Arkansas

where they visit a fish hatchery
see some nice scenery
and bald eagles, too
run, Parker!