December 21, 2010

These Days

Well friends, Christmas is almost here. Our month of December has been pretty busy. Here's what has occupied me/ us, in list form:

1. Someone had a birthday...
...and that would be me! Last Thursday I added another year to my age. It was a low-key birthday. I worked during the day and resisted the urge to announce to my bosses that it was my birthday. This seems to baffle people, many of whom told me I should have informed the boys that it was my birthday Really, it's not that easy. Every time I thought about telling them, the voice of reason in my little brain inquired, "Why? What do you want out of the conversation? To make them feel badly for your working on your birthday? To get them to say, 'Happy Birthday'? Is that REALLY going to be satisfying in the least? They might tell you to go home because it's your birthday, and then you'll get to remind them that since you're an hourly employee, going home means losing money that you really need. That will not be good. So what will you really accomplish?" In the end, reason won out, and I kept my mouth shut (for once!). When I got home, Levi probably greeted me with his usual squeal-turned-cry which can be roughly translated as, "You're home! Great! WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME ALL DAY AND FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE PICK ME UP!!!" Really, it's precious. After Levi went to bed that evening, Lindon and I went out for a nice dinner and small shopping spree to get me a birthday gift.

After we got home and were preparing for bed, we heard Levi wake and cry...hard. While it's not unusual for him to wake a cry a little bit at night, this was not a little bit. He would not calm down easily and when he did calm down, he did not stay calm. We decided to call the doctor first thing in the morning to figure out what was going on. When I did call, we were told to come in that afternoon, at which time we found out... 

2. Someone had an ear infection.
Poor Levi. His crying was due to his infected ear hurting. Now he's on the mend, and he's feeling much better.

3. Someone(s) installed a new kitchen floor.
These events are not in chronological order, but earlier this month Lindon's dad came out to help with some projects around the house. Lindon and Barry removed the old kitchen floor (which was fine in and of itself, but covered a floor that needed to be leveled), and they installed real tile on the kitchen floor. It looks so great! They also hung new interior doors, which threw the dog and kiddo for a loop. Heretofore, anyone who could not reach a doorknob could open an interior door by pushing on it hard enough. Levi and Nash found this very useful for entering rooms which we did not want them to enter (and sometimes Levi would in turn shut himself in said room, contentedly playing by himself). Now, the doors work the way doors are supposed to work. Nash does not like that he cannot go to bed whenever he wants, but Levi has discovered that banging on the doors with his hands or a wooden block is oh so fun.

4. Someone has been published.
Again, that would be me. I've had a few articles printed since November, and you can read the most widely appealing article here. The other article is a more straightforward, newsy thing that isn't really interesting, so I'm not posting it here. But I am happy to report more articles will be coming out soon, and they are of the widely appealing sort. They are also amazingly fun to research and write, so I am pretty thrilled. 

As for the rest of this month, we will be with family in PA. We leave tomorrow and will return in 2011. I think a nice, long visit with all of the family would do us a world of good right now. Today is my last full day in the office until next year, and the antsy-ness has begun!

Don't expect to hear much from me until the new year. Merry Christmas, all!

December 14, 2010

Songs that Make Me Smile: Christmas Edition

This is a continuation of my last post about why one should sing all the verses of a Christmas hymn. Really, any hymn, but this offense seems especially egregious to me at Christmas. Now, in honor of Christmas and in the spirit of singing all the verses, here are some of my favorite Christmas hymns. If you keep reading, please do me this one favor. Don't sing the words as you read them. It's easy to not think about the words when we're bouncing along to a familiar tune. Just read the text and let the beauty of the images capture you again, just like the beauty of the incarnation.

O Come All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful,
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem;
Come and behold him
Born the King of angels;

O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
O come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

God of God, Light of Light;
Lo, he abhors not the Virgin's womb:
Very God, Begotten, not created;

Sing, choirs of angels;
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all ye citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God in the highest;

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning:
Jesus, to thee be glory given;
Word of the Father,
Late in flesh appearing;

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King:
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th'angelic host proclaim,
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!"

Hark! the herald angels sing,
"Glory to the newborn King."

Christ, by highest heav'n adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th'incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Hail, the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Ris'n with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Joy to the World

Joy to the world! the Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the Saviour reigns:
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

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, thou Lord of might,
Who to thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell thy people save,
And give them victory o'er the grave.

O come, thou Dayspring from on high
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

O come, thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav'nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel's strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear Desire of ev'ry nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child, and yet a King,
Born to reign in us for ever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to thy glorious throne.

December 7, 2010

A Christmas Lecture

Recently I attended a church Christmas gathering with some very close friends. The event began with a time of Christmas hymn singing, and the leader of the singing announced, "We will be singing verses 1 and 4 of all these songs." Upon hearing this information, the friend sitting next to me whispered (in one of those loud whispers), "I HATE when they do this! Why can't we sing ALL the verses? I'd rather sing LESS songs and sing ALL the verses! The middle ones are the BEST!"

Though I secretly hoped the piano overpowered my friend's rant for those sitting around us, I couldn't disagree with her feelings.  No disrespect to the person who was leading the singing, but if you're going to sing a song, you really should sing ALL the verses. I understand the first and last verses are generally best known and sometimes songs can have a gazillion verses, but it really is important to sing an entire song. Why, you ask? Well, I will give you two reasons.

First, a hymn is a poem set to music. The words to the hymn were crafted to fit in a certain rhyme and meter, and their placement is not haphazard. Since my geek specialty is work geekiness, this really resonates with me. This is word craftsmanship, and to truncate a song is to truncate the art. As one who studied English in college, I can assure you that my professors never, EVER told us, "Read the first, third, and last stanzas of Donne's 'A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning', and we will discuss it tomorrow." The text tells a story, and cutting out verses cuts out some of the song's breathtaking beauty.

Second, the middle verses articulate fabulous theology. Contrary to popular belief, the original objective of Christmastime hymns was not the production of warm, fuzzy feelings. Really. "Silent Night" was not written so that we could have a song during the candle lighting at the Christmas Eve service. These beloved songs, like every song in the hymnal, were written for corporate worship, and as such, they assist in worship by reiterating (to music) the beliefs we hold to be true. In Christmas hymns, the theme that often comes out is the the incarnation, that Jesus left heaven and became a baby, while all the time retaining his deity. Sometimes this theology kind of slaps you on the side of the head, as in the verse of "O Come All Ye Faithful" that begins, "God of God, Light of Light...Very God, begotten, not created." It's straight from the Nicene Creed, folks! Other times it's more poetic, as in this amazing iteration of John 1 found in "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing:"

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th'incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Those are just two reasons to sing all the verses. Writing them down and publishing them in the blogosphere for my adoring fan base makes me feel a little better. I am sure there are more, and if you have a different reason for wanting to sing all the verses, please feel free to chime in. You can stew on these reasons until next Sunday when you only sing two verses of "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and then you can yell at your music director after church.*

*Don't actually do this. Please, don't actually do this.

December 3, 2010

Good Enough

So our Christmas decorations are pretty much up for this season. The tree will have no ornaments this year because the only room in which it will fit is the sunroom/ Levi's play room. The risk of him destroying an ornament (and harming himself in the process) is too great for me. So he will have to just admire the pretty lights and lovely ribbons on the tree (when I get them all up) and...

The train! This train came to us as a hand me down, and Lindon especially loves it. We set it up Thursday night, and while we worked on it, Levi woke up crying, a rarity these days. Since he did not go back to sleep on his own, we got him up to set him see the tree, the lights, and the train. He thought that was fine and good, and then he wanted to go back to bed.

Friday morning was another story. This time Levi had the time and energy to explore all aspects of the train, and that he did. He fiddled with the buttons on the control and discovered how to make the bell ring, and he really enjoyed watching the train go around while Santa waived at him. Sometimes he would just bang on the controls and squeal. We are working on learning "gentle."

My days seem filled with constant reminders of how little I understand about how to properly parent Levi and how poorly I meet his needs. He doesn't want to eat what I want him to eat, and I do not know what he wants to eat. When I say, "Come here," he looks at my blankly; kind of like when I say, "Gentle, Levi. You can't stick your finger in the dog's eye." My attempts to discipline him reap giggles and smiles. Seriously.

But when I watch him stare at the toy train or precariously toddle over to his father, I remember how much he has grown since LAST Christmas. The wonder on his face reminds me that the train very well could get broken this year, especially now that he tries to walk around with the control in his arms. But it's alright. Perfection in parenting and housekeeping are not my goals.

I have more important things to do, like watch the train with Levi.