My friend Megan has a new blog that I have found to be very inspiring. Hers is one of two blogs on which I keep current. (The other is here.) When I read Megan's blog posts, I sometimes notice my mind stirring around, starting to worry that I'm not doing enough. I'm not teaching my kids geography or reading aloud to them enough. I'm not doing a supplemental spelling program or taking my kids to visit famous historical places or encouraging dawdling in nature on a consistent basis.
But guess what. I'm not Megan. I'm so very glad Megan is Megan because I love hearing her ideas and being inspired by them. She has a wide and intentional view of the world that my narrow and intentional-in-a-different-way view very much needs.
I know Megan doesn't want me to feel like I'm not doing enough, just as I never want anyone who reads my blog to feel they are not doing enough.
Thank you for reading my blog, but you have permission any time to not read it. You have permission to not comment on any post you read. You have permission to never write a letter as well as to never make the green smoothies I talk about making for lunch. You can certainly never get a tattoo and you mustn't feel you should like Taylor Swift. You can never make the water kefir or fudge babies I'm going to write about soon and you can definitely never wrap up books for Advent like I did yesterday. (It's a family tradition we do each year, in which I wrap 25 Christmas books for the kids to open one at a time for each day of December and for us to read together as a family.)
We have gifts to give each other. Among many other more important and meaningful gifts, TJ gives me the gift of vacuuming the carpet in our house and scheduling our family's dentist appointments. I always find these little interests of TJ's peculiar yet notable. How funny that he cares about vacuuming and the dentist, but he does, and I'm grateful.
Megan taught me about geography in her last post, and The Read Aloud Revival lady keeps a steady stream of great books in my Instagram feed. My pastor writes from a place of thoughtful integrity that makes me want to be a better writer and thinker. My friend Natalee has learned how to make sourdough bread (and pancakes and pie crust) from a starter dough. Her interest in the food she buys and the attention with which she prepares it gets my attention.
My friend Shannon is passionate about empowering artisans in other countries to be able to provide for their families, and as a result, Shannon recently launched a business called Mango+Main to bring the artisans' goods to those of us who can make a difference with our dollars. My friend Phyllis is embracing veganism like a champ, and my other friend Jill reads and shares articles that make me think about tough stuff. (She's also the one who introduced me to the second blog I read besides Megan's.) My sister Holly makes gorgeous glass bunting to sell on her Etsy shop, and my friend Mandy is a children's book author.
My friend Heather makes unique, handmade baby mobiles. My friend Michelle has the most radiant spirit that overflows in kindness and joy to everyone around. Kristy is the friend who loves community and togetherness and who makes me want to be a better friend. Ashley does many things well, most notably supporting her husband (my pastor) in the church plant that is my church, Village Church. To have a friend like Ashley who leads and loves and serves others so well is about all you could want. And I think my friend Blaire cares about letter writing almost as much as I do.
Besides writing letters, I love memory work and having people to our house for dinner.
And so the world goes around, and we each stir, in our own way, in the pot of goodwill toward all mankind.
Stirring, stirring, my heart is stirring.
I won't feel bad that I'm not you. T
o how I'm made, I'll be true.
You give your gifts, I'll give mine.
And in the end, what will we find,
Except that we are all better?
All better. All better. All better.
I started an Advent devotional yesterday called Advent and Christmas: Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen. If I get nothing else from Advent this year, I am so grateful for a single line on page 2 that stirred my heart up some more:
The work of our salvation takes places in the midst of a world that continues to shout, scream, and overwhelm us...
How often I think without thinking that I will figure out my life when things settle down. When it's not Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or a busy homeschool season, or summer fun on the lake, or birthday season in the fall. Or when I don't have a dozen open windows in my mind and can focus on my heart for once. Or when my kids aren't so needy or when my writing is more established.
I was surprised to see that my salvation happens right in the middle of all the chaos. My salvation from my own selfishness and from putting Jesus in a box and wanting Him to fulfill my hopes and dreams on my terms can begin to happen again this Advent season. Right in the middle of Christmas shopping and traveling and preparing big meals and family dynamics and potty-training a two-year old. Jesus can set me free and stir my heart in all the right ways to enable me to live a life that celebrates being ruled.
What a gift!
For the interested parties, the books in our Advent bin this year are above and below. The kids take turns choosing them in any order they wish, one per day, as a countdown to Christmas. We read the books together as a family. Our favorite of all is Great Joy.
1. God Gave Us Christmas - Lisa Town Bergren
2. Little Whistle’s Christmas - Cynthia Rylant
3. Little Porcupine’s Christmas - Joseph Slate
4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Dr. Seuss
5. Christmas in the Barn - Margaret Wise Brown
6. Snowmen at Christmas - Caralyn Buehner
7. The Night Before Christmas - Clement C. Moore (illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa)
8. Katy and the Big Snow - Virginia Lee Burton
9. Mortimer’s Christmas Manger - Karma Wilson
10. Great Joy - Kate DiCamillo
11. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey - Susan Wojciechowski
12. This is the Stable - Cynthia Cotten
13. The Christmas Lizard - Cory Edwards
14. Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Clause - Chris Plehal
15. Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree - Robert Barry
16. Santa Mouse - Michael Brown
17. Who is Coming to Our House? - Joseph Slate
18. Christmas Cookies: Bite Size Holiday Lessons - Amy Krouse Rosenthal
19. Little Tree - e.e. cummings
20. Humphrey’s First Christmas - Carol Heyer
21. Santa’s Favorite Story - Hisako Aoki
22. The Clown of God - Tomie dePaola
23. Dream Snow - Eric Carle
24. Merry Christmas Curious George - H.A. Rey
25. Tacky's Christmas - Helen Lester