I love Christmastime 🙂
It acts as a reminder that God’s love and reconciliation via Christ was always the plan. God planned, before Adam and Eve sinned, before He created the world, to send Christ to bring humanity back to Him. And that’s really cool 🙂
Yesterday I splurged on time after spending all week and the week before studying my brains out (I never want to see a 3×5 note card ever again). At around 6:30 on Saturday morning I pulled myself out of bed and talked to God for a while. I looked at the beginning of Luke, at the exchange between Gabriel and Zechariah. I spent a while searching my Bible for verses to specifically combat the lies and fears that were already marching into my heart like enemy troops. They don’t call it a Sword for nothing.
Eventually I showered in an attempt to further wake up, got ready, grabbed my purse.
I hopped on the G, transferring to the A, and met up with Jenny around Jay St. The two of us were on a mission, equipped with lists and maps and even an itinerary. I’d saved up the money. She’d drawn up the plan.
We were going Christmas shopping.
Christmas shopping is by far my favorite part of this time of year. I get to spend time and money on gifts for other people; then I get to meticulously wrap and decorate these gifts, and THEN I get to give them to those people. I have so much fun doing this, and it’s especially exciting when you know it’s something they REALLY wanted or needed and were genuinely thankful for. Despite my tiredness and the pressures of finals, this was a day dedicated to anything but studying. Grandma Pat described it as “stopping to smell the roses in the middle of finals week,” and she couldn’t have been more right 🙂 And the fact that God even gave me this day to just be a girl and go shopping and all sorts of other nonsense is just an absolute miracle and a blessing and looking back on the day, I realize it was just another way of His telling me that He loves me, another brightly-colored sticky note on my refrigerator 🙂 It’s a small thing, but it’s a big thing to me.
Also, I’ve never gone Christmas shopping in the City before 🙂
Jenny and I headed out to Manhattan, and when we stepped out of the station and onto the ground level, the sun made everything shine. The Freedom Tower (1,776 feet, yes) glistened, and the sky was clear, cloudless, and the air was crisp. The two of us meandered through the skyscrapers to stop at a Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and breakfast. We sat and talked about Christ, about God’s word, about relationships, and about fighting fear. And it was awesome.
Soon we headed out towards the Strand, magnificent bookstore to which I’d been only once with Karly at the beginning of the semester. After getting lost several times and then very gracefully coming in the wrong door, we stepped in and began scouring the bookshelves. We asked for information and dug around until we found what we were looking for and left with a smile. We walked from where we came, recalling seeing a massive flea market on our way down. As we walked towards the market, I struggled not to give into exhaustion.
“I need a hug,” I told Jenny.
Surely enough, there was a friendly man holding a cardboard sign, and on it was written “Free Hugs.”
“Well okay then.”
So I hugged this man, who was very respectful and handed it out many hugs to many different people and gave out a lot of smiles 🙂
We finally got into the market and were greeted by hand-woven wool headbands, necklaces made from recycled paper, German cider, bandana bow ties, figurines made from vegetable ivory, and clothing made from a blend of cotton and elephant dung.
The market was huge.
Eventually we ended up in Burlington Coat Factory, then grabbing lunch and cutting through town to get to Max Brenner’s, a chocolate fondue restaurant near the Strand. As we walked, we noticed tons of police officers setting up barricades as people began to flood the streets. Signs came up over their heads. People yelled from windows. There were too many people. “Justice, now!” emanated in frightening tones from the mouths of the mass of protestors. Jenny began talking about the politics of the situation. I told her we needed to leave.
We did leave after stopping in at Max Brenner’s and realizing we were running short on time. My pastor’s wife, Melinda, had invited us over that afternoon to bake (another wonderful girl-time thing that is an amazing blessing from God that He totally didn’t have to let happen but He did, even in all of the busyness of everything) after we’d completed our shopping. We opted out of chocolate fondue and headed to the subway.
On the way to Melinda’s, we stopped at Atlantic Ave. to keep searching for a few other things on our lists. Afterwards, as we waited for a bus, I was struggling to be patient, and tiredness was overwhelming me again.
Me: Lord, I know I’m exhausted, but please help be patient, even if it’s as small a situation as waiting for a bus. Keep me awake.
The bus came a few minutes early, and who did we find on it? Rebecca! 😀 So the three of us sat and talked about our day and about Christmas. At our stop, Jenny dropped her things off at her house and I headed to Melinda’s.
Our baking session was wonderful 🙂 I was still exhausted and had little energy, but we got so much done and had so many laughs. Pastor and his son Ray were there as well, causing all sorts of trouble in the kitchen as we tried to keep them from eating perfectly iced cupcakes and artistically frosted sugar cookies. We did not succeed.
Around 8:30pm I headed home, my books and papers and to-do lists calling my name. Back at the dorms, Bree and I laid on the floor, quizzing each other on French vocabulary and expressions. I talked to Jacob, and it was wonderful 🙂
He, Hannah, and Beth are coming to get me from the City this upcoming Friday…yes, they’re coming to get me. Originally, as I talked to my mom about it, I was uncertain, thinking it would be much easier to let her come and get me, like usual. But (and thank God for mothers) she suggested I give Jacob the opportunity to come get me, and Hannah and Beth the opportunity to visit. And God has already used it to push me further out on the limb of vulnerability than I think I’ve ever been before, both with Him and with other people. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s also amazing 🙂
Today, as I headed to church, I once again fought to stay awake, trying not to think about my French final Monday morning (as in, today, as I write this…they say to get a good night’s sleep before finals, but I’m quickly realizing this is impossible). I talked to God, eventually having nothing to say and just resting Him, just listening to Him, just looking for Him.
In morning service, Pastor talked about how Christ, after He was born of Mary, didn’t perform a single miracle for the first thirty years of His life, which probably brought a ridiculous amount pressure onto Mary, because here she’d told everyone about Gabriel and everyone (or, lots of people I would imagine) knew the prophecy concerning the Messiah, but after thirty years the questions and maybe even the accusations had to have been coming. There was no real sign that this was the Messiah until He came to John the Baptist. And yet this is where we see yet again that those who wait on the Lord are never put to shame. We see Mary’s faith in Christ, in her own son, in the Son of God. We see Christ still living perfectly, even though He didn’t exercise His divine power until the age of thirty. And we’re reminded once again that this was always the plan. Solid.
In between services, I sat and talked to some of the girls, ate Christmas cookies for lunch (don’t do that) and wrote a bit, talking to God until Rebecca came over to where I was sitting in the sanctuary and pulled me to where I was singing alto with her in the choir. It was nice 🙂
In the afternoon service, Pastor talked about Joshua, and how before Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan river, they camped next to it for three days (Josh. 3:1-2). In order to finally cross into the Promised Land, they had to cross this river, but it was even more daunting, when “the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest” (v. 15). And they woke up and looked at the obstacle for three days.
And yet, God parted the waters, just like He had when His people fled from Pharaoh. I love the fact that God did this miracle twice (that I’ve found so far), just like when Christ fed the 5,000 and then also fed the 3,000. He didn’t just do it once, but twice, maybe to prove that it wasn’t coincidence or trickery. Regardless, it was amazing.
After afternoon service, all of the College & Career people headed downstairs for the Christmas party 🙂 We all ate great food, talked about Christ, about college. I asked some people what they were studying in the Bible and had good conversations about this as well. Ray is studying Judges. Elisa is studying Joshua. I’m studying 1 Samuel.
We played all sorts of crazy games, exchanged gifts (I got a journal!!! :D), and then I stayed and helped cleaned up and Sam and Maria very kindly drove me back to campus.
And now, I’m sitting here, thinking in French and writing in English, trying to push the random German words trying to mingle with its not-so-harsh-sounding linguistic counterparts. But God is God even during finals. And I know the world’s not going to end. And I know God has got me covered, and that He can still use me even if I fail miserably on every single one of my finals. His love does not depend on my test scores, and the course of my life does not depend on how well I can pronounce “faire la natation.” And I know at the end of the week, I get to see Jacob.
I get to see Jacob at the end of the week 😀
I also get to see Beth and Hannah, who, though we just went on an adventure together, I feel like I haven’t spoken to in forever, and when I see all of them, I’m going to give them THE BIGGEST HUGS I’ve ever given anyone because, regardless of the free hugs, I miss my best friends. And how blessed I am to have them. God didn’t have to give me them. He didn’t have to give me Jacob. He didn’t have to give me Hannah. He didn’t have to give me Beth. He didn’t have to give my mom. He didn’t have to give me Jenny, or Sam and Maria, or Aunt Lori and Uncle Doug, or my dad, or any of the other wonderful people in my life who challenge me and push me and encourage me…but He did anyway.
He did anyway 🙂