Little Christmas-y Things

I've got nothing profound or terribly inspirational to write today (not... that I do on other days either..) But I did want to try to capture some of the little Christmas-y things that make this season wonderful in my house. Merry Christmas to you and yours! 

My family decorated  before I got home this year, but left my favorite ornaments, the three pearlescent angels, and the white wooden cradle for me to add to the tree.

The Christmas village and our red felt stockings all adorn the mantle; the italian creche with its birch bark stable is tucked away in the corner of the living room; and every morning the boys vie for the honor of tracing the next number on the Christmas countdown chalkboard.

There's peppermint mocha Coffee Mate in the fridge to make delightfully festive coffee, and we've baked more cookies than normal... yet no one is allowed to eat them till after the gift plates are made up. 

Meg and I are on break, and Alex came home Sunday morning, so for the first time in a while we were ALL at dinner together. Sadly, we're beginning to out grow the table; the piano bench double seating the two youngest at the end is going to be a permanent fixture during the holiday. Its good to be all together.

Meg and I are conspiring to make a tradition of last years Christmas Eve viewing of Little Women, though not an explicitly Christmas movie, the themes of love, family, and sacrifice embodied in the story are christmas-y indeed.

I added snowflakes to my blog template (do you like them?) and have been listening to music from the Beatrix Potter Tailor of Gloucester animated film (one of my favorite Christmas stories.) I'll leave you with this one. 

'Silent falls the winter snow, the air is crisp, and the fires glow. Of all the splendour in our town, the holy cathedral wears the crown. Christmas day, when the children do sing 'Open the door and let us come in', for on this day is born a king, and joyous voices are praising. Glory, glory is crowned, the cathedral glows as the voices sound. The joy and wonder fill the air, as hearts are lifted in Christmas fair.'

Endings and Beginnings II: A Year of Writing and Waiting

Its been a year since I started this blog. I didn't really have a plan; I just decided to write, and write often. And I did. My first post was some musings on Endings and Beginnings, which I'd like to reprise today, as I find myself in a similar place.

This week marks the end of not only another semester, but the end of my last semester of undergraduate studies. I'm done at Bryan, and though this has yet to sink in, I'm very well aware of the fact that I'm at a huge crossroads in my life. There are so many things that can be done: grad school, working, traveling... who knows! Aside from going home, I don't know what I'll be doing, where I'll get a job, or if I'll even be accepted to UT's library program. It's exciting and scary all at once. Am I ready? No. I don't think one is ever fully ready to move on from something good in life. Is it the right time? Yes.
This week also marks a year of watching God work quietly in many areas of my life, a year spent praying and waiting. Even though at this point, He hasn't handed me my hearts desires outright, He also hasn't said no either. I think of it as a semicolon. He hasn't marked my prayers with the full-stop finality of a period, but rather, He's left room for expectancy and hope for clarification in the future. Isn't hope a marvelous thing?
Here's to another year of writing. Thanks to my readers for sticking with me so far. 
 Here's to this ending and the beginnings in my future.  Whatever they are, I'll keep you informed.
   And here's to hope, because whatever God has in mind is worth waiting on.

The Dress

This is the story of a girl and a dress.

It all started in the Fall of 2011, when I first moved out to Dayton to go to Bryan College. The first few months of adjustment were pretty hard, as I don't make friends very quickly, and was frequently homesick. Rather than holing up in my dorm room, I made it my goal to go to the historic downtown once a week and visit a new shop each time.

My first stop was the library, when I began my long, happy relationship with Clyde... but that's a different story.

 One week, I decided to go to the Gathering Place, a cute little antique shop on main street. It's one of those places that houses different vendor booths, so you have a sampling of various antiques as well as handcraft items.
 While browsing through a rack of vintage clothing, I came across the most beautiful Gunne Sax dress. I had grown up hearing about the Gunne Sax line from my mother, and recognized the long, full tiered skirt, filmy sleeves and lace trim as being from the 70's prairie-revival trend before I even saw the label. We ha d a hoedown themed banquet coming up at Bryan, and I briefly considered buying it for that occasion, but because I had to buy choral wear for Women's chorus, I held off, promising myself that if it was still there by the time I graduated, I would get it then.

Fast-forward to Fall 2013, my last semester at Bryan. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Gathering Place with my roommate for the final check on my dress. Just as it had been for the past two and a half years, it was still there. I tried it on and it fit perfectly; it was destined to be.

I bought it, telling the lady at the counter my story. She asked what I'd do with it.
I shrugged, "Take pictures... Save it for a special occasion... Wear it to a costume party..."
 I'd get married in this dress.

Today, before she left for home, my roommate took pictures for me.

I felt like Jo March.


Cutting Snowflakes

Last night I was cutting out snowflakes to garland my room with wintery wonder and having a fabulous time. My print quota has been making itself twice as useful, as I have recycled all the unneeded papers from my classes this semester; there's something cathartic about cutting up homework. ("HA! take THAT you beastly little reflection paper!" get the idea.)
I follow the standard method of snowflake cutting, folding a neat triangle, then cutting out little bits and designs. There might be some people who can visualize what the end product is going to look like once it's unfolded, but, my mind doesn't work like that, so I cut at random and look forward to the surprise at the unfolding.
So I sat at my desk at midnight, folding and cutting and unfolding and then, as often happens at midnight when I'm still awake, I started thinking.
Life is sometimes like being a paper snowflake. God holds the scissors and shapes and trims; he knows exactly what the finished product is gonna look like. We just have to wait for the surprise at the unfolding. 
Its hardly a perfect analogy; someone with a better mind for theology could probably blow holes in my lacy little snowflake idea. But its this sort of picture that gives me comfort when I see nothing but unknowns ahead of me.

Fold upon fold
No one knows what you hold.
Each cut in its place
Adds new dimensions of Grace.
A snowflake surprise.

(poem based off blogging friend Jonathan Creasy's fascinating experiment with form that he calls scarlequain, click the link to read more about it and check out his blog.)

"Goblin Market" and Sisters

Because today is Christina Rossetti's birthday, I decided to re-read "Goblin Market", a great favorite of mine from childhood. My dad first read it aloud to me from Harold Bloom's Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages (an anthology, which, despite its incredibly pretentious title, is excellent and well worthy of the inch and a half of bookshelf space it occupies), and I've returned to it several times over the years, though a good space of time has passed since I last read it.
I found it just as eerie as I remember, and it made me think quite fondly of my long held obsession for the fae world that began when I was a good ten years younger. I still believe in fairies now, but in a very different way... but that conversation I'll save for another time...
This time reading the poem through, I was fascinated with the relationship between the two sisters, Lizzie and Laura. I love sisters, from my own two biological sisters, Megan and Fiona, to my unbiological sister (and roommate) Jori, to the various sets of famous fictional sisters that grace literature and film: the Dashwoods, the Bennets, and, of course, the Haynes sisters from White Christmas.  I identify with the cautious Lizzie, who squinched her eyes tight shut and stopped her ears with her fingers when the goblin men passed, else she be tempted by the wild and wonderful glamour of their magic wares; but I don't blame Laura for being curious and lingering to try and buy. (She reminds me so of my sweet unbiological sister... so much that not long after she awoke this morning--right after offering to make coffee--I bounded over to her bed to tell her the story of these sisters. She loves it when I rave about literature early in the morning. ;) Lizzie may have been cautious and chastising of her sister when she came back having tasted of the poisonous fairy-fruits, but she was not hard-hearted to Laura's suffering when the poison began to take effect. A sister will give her good advice but be there to pick up the pieces when it goes foolishly unheeded.  When Lizzie overcomes her fears and braves the goblin market, it is her selflessness that stays her resolve to not eat the goblin offerings even as the little men try to first sweetly coerce, then later force her to eat. Her love for her sister keeps her strong till the goblins finally give up and leave, and she returns to Laura, scratched and bruised, but with the juices as a cure. As the cure take its effect on poor Laura, burning out the poison in her veins, Lizzie still stays by her side, keeping watch. Thankfully, (else I would probably have a fit and scream at Laura, through she's only a character on the page) Laura recognizes the selfless love of her sister and passes it on to her own children in what is, perhaps, my favorite bit of the whole poem,
Then joining hands to little hands
Would bid them cling together,
“For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.”
Thank God for sisters, biological and un-; without them, where would we be?

Searching for Knitting Needles

There are times when, realizing the lack of control I have over the larger events of my life, I try to  micromanage the most insignificant details. This, dear readers, is exactly why I'm up at 12:17 a.m. rummaging through my knitting bin trying to find my size 8 circular needles. It's one of the few things that stand between me and tears. I'm rummaging and thinking and not finding what I need and desperately wishing for a hug and someone to tell me that its okay to not have everything under control. I'm frustrated because I can't remember where anything is in these crates that I've moved twice since May, and will move again in two weeks, but I know that the frustration is only a mask for the fear that lies beneath.

Fear of Change                              Fear of the Unknown                                      Fear of Failing

I want so badly to go on just as I am now: happy, loving life, getting into scrapes with my best friend and roommate, anticipating the afternoon coffee and homework, the late night movies, the real talks in the dark before drifting off to sleep. I don't want this to change; it feels like I only just got here.
I'm terrified--yes, terrified, I've finally said it after two months of thinking it--of the thought of what happens after. After the next two weeks are gone, then what? I try to get a job. I adjust to a new normal. I wait to hear from grad schools. But after that, then what? I just don't know. I hate not knowing.
I worry about not being good enough. I worry that what everyone says is true, that employers are gonna look at my Liberal Arts degree, and my sparse resume and say "Try McDonald's." I worry that the one school I want, won't want me. I worry about making friends in a city where for SIX YEARS, I've not had one close friend near my age.

I wish I could say that by now, at 1:04 a.m., I've soothed myself with promising Bible verses and am ready to sleep peacefully till class time, but that's not how this night is gonna go. I'm praying hard prayers for wisdom and direction, but if I've learned anything in my twenty-two years of life, its that God works on a different time than I do. Some nights you have to go to bed with problems left unresolved as you try your hardest to trust that He's working on your life behind the scenes.

If I have red eyes in the morning and fall asleep in chapel, just blame it on the knitting needles.

its 1:14.