A Trip, A Tea Party, & 3 Winners!

Macy’s on 34th
John Piper’s Advent reading plan on the Bible App has been giving me a lot to think about and be challenged by lately. Here’s part of what day 22 said:
“You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird, so spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God.”
Urbanspace on Vanderbilt
Thank you, Jenna, for the recommendation!

You can also travel to New York City and take in all of its elaborate window displays, giant Christmas trees, and holiday music playing everywhere and forget to set your mind on Jesus. You can even host a Christmas tea party for a great group of teen girls, make gingerbread houses, create handmade gifts, and eat Christmas cookies without considering the baby born to die.

But we tried not to do that this week.

Mary & Izckra got to try the gigantic doughnuts.

Just choosing to go to NYC at the beginning of a busy week was an opportunity to trust God! I had to fight the temptation to fret over all that was not yet done back home, but the calmer of the seas was providing peace and helping me to laugh at the days to come.

We tried the pistachio-cardamom gluten free bread and the chocolate truffle cookies.

First we had a taco, cookie, and doughnut feast at Urbanspace on 44th near where we parked. Then it was shopping on 5th Avenue – Topshop, GAP, Uniqlo and more.  Later we hit the H&M near Macy’s, of course.

It was a Sweet Sixteen celebration for Mary!

Skating at Rockefeller was the plan, but the girls decided against it once we were there. It was pretty cold and windy out, so we headed underneath the big tree for dinner and more shopping – gluten free Mediterranean wraps, soup, burgers, sweet potato fries and Starbucks. Wandering around in Anthropologie took us about an hour, but no one dared purchase anything due to the mile-long check out line.

Saks 5th Avenue is directly opposite the Rockefeller tree.  If you’ve been there, you know that if you turn 180 degrees from looking at the tree you see the front of Saks. Not only are the window displays beautiful there, but they do a light show on the front of their building every ten minutes. Such fun treat – and a lot to take in in just one spot!
My old friend Mike stopped by Rockefeller for a quick hello and then swiped us all onto the subway headed in the direction of Macy’s. From there we Ooo-ber’d it took an Uber back to our parking spot and enjoyed chatting with our driver who is planning to enter the NYPD Academy in January and shares a love for the show Blue Bloods. How cool that someday soon he’ll be working for Commishioner Tom Selleck.  😉

Saks 5th Avenue Light Show
Wednesday was spent getting ready for the tea party (and tonight’s open house), and Thursday morning we enjoyed having several of Kayla’s friends over for her annual tea party. I just love this tradition!
Dress Code: Pj’s

Some friends have moved away and some weren’t able to make it this year, but just look at how much they’ve grown! When we first started doing this, I could totally envision this past Thursday’s scene in my kitchen – big girls enjoying all the same tea party activities that they did when they were little.  Does anyone ever outgrow a love for decorating gingerbread (well, graham cracker) houses?

Tea Party 2008
Thanks for reminding me of this pic, Virginia!

After decorating our houses, we moved on to the actual tea party part – eating finger foods and drinking hot tea, hot chocolate, and we’ve added coffee in the last couple of years. We used to read a children’s Christmas book together while everyone was eating, but this year we switched to a passage of Scripture. I chose Mary’s song – the magnificat – to read to these girls who are all probably about the same age as Mary was when she was visited by the angel.  We talked about the meaning of “bondslave” and discussed Mary’s virtuous character and love for God as revealed in her song. I pray that each of these young women continues to grow in her desire to know and serve God in the same way.

Next we made our gifts for mom – a coconut oil, sugar, and peppermint hand and/or foot scrub…

 And pocket sized hand warmers – fabric squares sewed together and filled with rice which can be heated in the microwave. I thought I might have to spend a lot of time helping them with the sewing machine, but thankfully (and impressively!) several of the girls knew how to use it.  I hardly had to help at all, because they just naturally helped each other.

The boys hung around for a while before letting us have the house to ourselves.
So nice to have them home!
So nice to also have Ms. Abbott with us – or “Sabbott” as she is now affectionately known.
Even Sabbott got sewing instructions from Jessica!

There was cookie decorating and game playing later and I enjoyed every minute of the morning into early afternoon – even the kitchen cleaning from which I could hear the girls laughing and chatting in the living room. Truly a delight.

Mary’s song always serves to help me remain in awe and worship during this season…

My soul exalts in the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior…for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is His name. And His mercy is on generation after generation toward those who fear Him… Luke 1: 46-50

Thinking on the Mighty One, the Savior, and His mercy have sustained me this week.

John Piper has given me words to pray in request for a heart that is spellbound by the incredible gift of the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection…

“Oh, how I pray for a breaking forth of the Spirit of God upon me and upon you; for the Holy Spirit to break into my experience in a frightening way, to wake me up to the unimaginable reality of God.”

May your heart be wakened by the Spirit this Christmas to the reality of the God who put on flesh for you, to Emmanuel, the God who came near.

And now for the winners of the giveaway…

(I used this website to help me draw your names!)

For bundle #1: The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Butterfield, and the Bird’s Nest Necklace.

Congrats, Itamar!

And for Bundle #2: One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss, and the Bird’s Nest Necklace.
Congrats, Angela!

And I decided to add a third prize: The One Thousand Gifts Devotional by Ann Voskamp.
Congrats, Michelle!

I’ll send these your way mid-January and I pray they encourage you as they have me. And if you’ve already read them, pass them along to someone who could use them!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

He Calms the Seas AND the Season ( Plus…A Giveaway!)

Tea Party Prep!
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays always start the same way for the 40-somethings at my house. 
Up early. 
Workout clothes on.
Bible reading with a side of hot tea. 
Out the door for a run – on the nearby rail trail or at the nearby Planet Fitness depending on weather conditions.
(On Mondays we add the special treat of breakfast together at Whole Foods and a “What do you have going on this week?” conversation.)
But last Wednesday I couldn’t do it. 
The homeschooling. 
The holidays. 
The endless (but good!) events, deliveries, visits, houseguests, conferences.
The deep needs of people – both inside and outside of my home. 
The anxiety rising up in the heart of this introvert who could not remember the last time she was alone and not required to either talk or actively listen. 
And the stark reality that Christmas was just 10 days away.

Drove slowly through the snow to see Ebeneezer Scrooge: A Christmas Carol.
In those coming 10 days there would be several coffee dates, doctor appointments, a retreat planning meeting, a trip out of town for a musical, church, a congrats party, a meal delivery, babysitting gigs for the teenaged girl, a trip to New York City to celebrate her dear friend’s Sweet Sixteen, airport pickups, an annual tea party, an open house, a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, and a Christmas morning worship service.

And not one gift had been bought. Not even one.

I should confess that these are all my choices and felt responsibilities and desires. I like to be busy. I like to put extra effort in celebrating the Christ-focused holidays. I like to serve and host. I like people and parties.

But I still don’t know my own limits.

I think I’m fine. I feel strong and full of life in all of this whirlwind of activity and people. And then it hits me, and all of a sudden I’m weary, and slipping into despair. I wish there were clear ways of calculating when this will happen. A formula to follow. (Not that I would follow it.)

So, last Wednesday, I stayed in bed in the early morning hours. The other 40-something brought me a cup of tea before he went out the door to exercise without me.

I was so tempted to grab my computer and start shopping, because….NO GIFTS! How many days do I have left before they won’t arrive in time for Christmas? I had already received a reprimanded by my father who had been calling me daily for ideas and sizes for all the grandkids.

I resisted the urge in my driven heart and restless mind to start crossing things off my very long list, and grabbed my Bible instead. Immediate temptation rose up again – to not read everything I usually do. To skip the advent devotion…or the Proverb….or the New Testament chapter. Or prayer. (Oh, how often that one gets cut short. Prayer is “the greater work…” as someone reminded me last Sunday, and it’s so true.)

So I started reading.
I read everything I was “supposed” to read.
And He spoke. (As He ALWAYS does in this situation.)
And what a gift…

“And He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, ‘Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ And they became very much afraid and said to one another, 
‘Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?'”
 Mark 4: 39-41

“When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, 
but the righteous has an everlasting foundation.” 
Proverbs 10: 25

“So that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” 
I Corinthians 2: 4-5

And I prayed (like, wrote-it-in-my-journal-prayer)…

Lord, I am in need of your peace and your wisdom in the whirlwind of Christmas. There have been so many people and concerts and meetings and even gift-wrapping gigs for CC and more. I fought the tears of the accumulation of input and interaction all day yesterday. Please help me to have faith in your power and your wisdom and not in mine. I don’t know how to manage my time well and factor in my own needs. I want to be poured out for your church, and so I say yes to a lot of people and seeming responsibilities, but then I crash. Show me how to have a better balance, so that I’m not going from one urgent request or need to another with no time for reflection or real prayer. Help me to prioritize that. Show me how to be thoughtful and mindful and how to pray and how to listen to you – hearing your guidance.

I went on to pray for help focusing on and resting in Him, for gift ideas for friends and family, for wisdom in preparing for the retreat meeting, and for protection from the enemy who is truly ramping up his game lately. (Maybe more on this later?)

Small Group Christmas Party
True Highlight of the Season: Amherst College Christian A Cappella concert

And He is answering my prayers. He’s bringing to mind those scriptures and realities…

My faith is not in earthly wisdom. (i.e. Christmas is about gifts! Get an early start!) God is the one with power and true wisdom. (Christmas is about Him. Emmanuel. God come near to be with us.)

When the whirlwind passes (and it will), I’ll still be standing. (Both the Christmas whirlwind, and the eternal judgment whirlwind!)

He has sovereign control. (Over the raging sea AND over this season. It’s all going to be okay.)

Oh, I’m working down the list. The packages are all mailed off. The Christmas cards go out today…all 225 of them. The teenaged babysitter has been dropped off and has already had Starbucks and lunch delivered to her. The trip to NYC is tomorrow, and I’m not even fretting about the tea party for a bunch of teenaged girls which is two days later. It’s really going to be okay.

The Christmas Eve open house for our church members will be icing on the cake, and I can’t wait. We’ve even recruited some dear helpers for the evening. (Thank you in advance, Corey & Yulia!)

After my tea-and-Bible-in-bed-morning, I went out and did some shopping and then had a couple of appointments. I made up my morning run on Thursday morning, and miraculously the earth kept spinning on its regular axis. I even almost finished up the shopping after that morning workout.

That Christ has power to calm the sea, gave me peace all throughout those days. That I’d still be standing on December 26 (and forever), because He promises to sustain, gave me hope.

He even gave me the idea and desire to offer you all a couple of gifts, and I’m super excited about sharing some of my favorite authors and trinkets with you. If you comment here on the blog or on Facebook or via private message with a verse that is sustaining you this advent season (or in the recent past), I’ll put your name in the hat for one of these bundles. There will be two winners – one for each bundle.

Here’s the first:

Bird’s Nest Necklace from JoyWares

And the second:

Bird’s Nest Necklace fro JoyWares

I have not read The Broken Way yet, but I asked for it for Christmas. If it appears under my tree, it will likely consume the remainder of my Christmas day. Ann Voskamp has an intriguing style, and I find it so full of truth and encouragement. Her son makes the necklaces and several other wonderful items for encouraging faith in families. Check out his site, JoyWares.

Ok – comment away!  I’ll pick a winner on the morning of Christmas Eve, so you’ve got until midnight Friday. I’ll let you know via message and will post it here as well.  You can expect your goodies by the middle of January.

In the mean time, may you find peace and hope in the One who presides over the seas and is the very reason for the advent season.

First We Drank The Coffee…

Then we did the things…the dreaming and the planning and the inviting and the shopping and the furniture rearranging. 
Which required drinking more of the coffee.
Why…thank you, Rory.
We found some cute party supplies on Etsy – coffee cups, team boyfriend stickers, and Gilmore Girls Bingo boards. Favor boxes, too.
And we recruited biggest brother to help tape together those favor boxes just an hour or so before he headed to Boston to catch an early morning flight. He’s a keeper for sure, and his Gilmore loving girlfriends (i.e. girls who are also friends) back at Baylor were impressed, I think.
Especially after we sent one of them this photo…

Kayla made the famous and always obeyed sign from Luke’s diner.

We decked the halls with Gilmore Garland…

…and quotes…

…and more garland.

It was a Favorite Junk Food Of Rory And Lorelai Potluck, and just take a look at the feast which our guests put together…

Not pictured is my freezer – full to the brim with Ben & Jerry’s pints – six or seven different flavors. There were two half gallons of Friendly’s Ice Cream, too, because this is Massachusetts after all.

We gathered at 5pm, loaded up our plates with a beautiful assortment of sugar and carbs and Chinese take-out…

…and got all snuggled in for the first of four 90 minute episodes – all 19 of us!
First: Winter
Then: Spring, Summer, and Fall.
And Fall just about Did. Us. In. (see our reaction below) And though it was 1:30am, and there was cleaning to do, and furniture to move, and air mattresses to inflate, I was able to do a little processing of What. Just. Happened. with Lois – my die hard, late night helper. (The younger girls were all processing upstairs in Kayla’s room.)
Yep…that is exactly what we all looked like when the screen went black.

(Well, all except for Mary, who was just plain angry, and then had to leave so that she could go to another Gilmore Girls Movie Marathon the next day with friends from church. She was not too happy about keeping that shocking ending to herself through All. Four. Seasons. with her unsuspecting viewing partners.)

But then I slept on it. I got up the next morning and went for a run before my Sleeping Gilmore Beauties woke up, and decided sometime between the black screen and the breakfast frittata that it made sense. I mean in an Amy Sherman-Palladino, literary, “full circle” kind of way, it made sense.
Funny how we all expected things to be “full circle” in a perfectly, romantic, fairy tale sense. Not one of us expected what happened, but if I could go back in time, I would have stopped the movie just before the Final. Four. Words. and engaged my living room viewers in a Socratic Circle discussion about what was probably going to happen. (They are each classically trained, after all, and I’m certain Gilmore Girls would have been a priority in ancient Greece.) Questions and answers until we came to a sensible conclusion. There were less than 2 minutes on the counter, for goodness’ sake!  What could possibly happen in those two minutes to wrap up a seven season era? I’m convinced that, had we given it enough time and thought, we could have come up with those Final. Four. Words.

There was foreshadowing. There were clues. There was a Rory who was not doing ANYTHING we wanted her to do and all the things we didn’t want her to do. It made sense. Maddening sense, but still.
I got a few text messages the next day about the ending, and so I just started copying and pasting my response:

So, here are a few things I hoped for and didn’t get:

  • More of my favorite characters. I wanted more scenes with Lane and her mom, (though her dad finally made an appearance – ha!), with Sookie and Jackson, with Miss Patty, and with each of the previous boyfriends.  Paris and Kirk were hilarious, though. I loved seeing their fixed, yet aged temperaments and tendencies. So funny. 
  • Flashbacks and more references to past episodes. I was hoping for more picking up where things left off and for more references to previous situations. I wish ten years hadn’t expired, even though in reality they had. In many ways not enough stayed the same, and not enough changed.  There needed to be more of both.

And here are a few things that were highly disappointing, or maybe just one thing. One person, really: 
  • Rory. Though I still love her (and yes, I know she’s not real), she was just plain disappointing. Depressing. Frustrating. Infuriating? Ten years gone by with nothing to show for it. Entitled. Immoral. Uncaring. Reckless. The list goes on.
She was not the Rory who drew us into the show in the first place. The sweet, moral, wise-beyond-her-years, and disciplined young school girl. The kind-hearted, yet determined book worm. The faithful daughter and granddaughter we grew to love in the first few seasons.

That’s me and my disheartened look regarding Rory’s character.
The language was disappointing as well. Maybe I’m not remembering correctly, but the revival seemed to have much more cursing than the originals. But Emily also wore jeans, so clearly everyone was spiraling down.
So, I was disheartened, and I had a living room full of teenaged girls and even some of their moms watching all of this play out. I was really hoping for more, and the risk I took in having a party around movies I had not seen proved to be just that: risky. I probably should have known better.

We did have fun, though, eating our junk food and laughing at Kirk’s new Uber Ooo-ber business and remembering the fun and silly aspects of the show we’ve all enjoyed over the last year or so.

Now that it’s over, it’s time for more coffee.

P.S. I still have the templates for the favor boxes and the Bingo boards.  If you are throwing your own party in the near future and want to use them, send me a message, and I’ll send you those supplies. I’ll happily throw in the “Gilmore Garland” as well.
But they are also really easy to purchase and download here and here.
But maybe you might want to stick with the Anne of Green Gables remake?