Mama always says, “Don’t wear your bedroom slippers to the shopping mall.”
But Mama’s wisdom doesn’t necessarily apply during Christmas. Especially when you’ve got some brand new jingling elf slippers:
And you’re on your way with Ethel to get your annual Santa picture taken:
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First we had to have lunch and exchange gifts. And nothing quite sets the tone for a Christmas gift exchange like a retro diner which serves 26-inch hotdogs:
Over the years, Ethel and I have adorned ourselves for our photos with some fairly ridiculous accessories: reindeer antlers, elf hats, feather boas. This year, after reading an ebook about practicing Advent, we decided to deck ourselves in purple. Yep, all day I was a long, cool, walking Advent pillar, and so was Ethel (although she’s not nearly as long). All day we engaged in our own little secret Advent conspiracy.
Because writer Anne Lamott said, “You don’t always have to chop with the sword of truth. Sometimes you can point with it, too.”
So we walked around all day bearing witness to the Source of ridiculous joy. And the amazing thing we discovered was: Once you know what you’re looking for, you start seeing evidence of it everywhere:
Ethel gave me the most fantastically amazing handmade gift of love:
She saw a picture in a catalog of a sweater beaded in peacock feather patterns and thought to herself, “I can do that.” And so she did. God has gifted my friend with amazing creativity and mad art skills.
I gave Ethel ice cube molds in the shape of false teeth. Because I’m classy like that. And because I know that someday, when we live next door to one another in a nursing home, she’s the kind who’s always going to be stealing my teeth. And I look forward to growing old and ever more ridiculous with my friend.
Then she opened the elf slippers. And we were on our way:
We like to believe we add a little joy to Santa’s life, making the season more merry and bright for everyone:
Discovering Advent: E-book by Mark D. Roberts
It was the first time I’d heard her voice.
We’d met, through words and pictures on each others blogs. I first started blogging by posting a weekly gratitude list and linking it with Ann Voskamp’s community. I knew absolutely nothing about the rules of etiquette governing blog world. On Ann’s site I saw thumbnails, small pictures linking to the gratitude posts of others, lists each had made of weekly thank offerings. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to read and comment on others’ lists; if it was nosy or creepy or stalkerish to do so. But I did. I looked through the thumbnails and at the other blog titles and found one called Curious Acorn. I figured whoever chose that title must have been some kind of marketing genius. The curious word choice drew me in. Is the writer curious about acorns? I wondered. Or, is the blog about acorns that are curious? That doesn’t make any sense.
So of course I clicked. And I made my very first internet friend.
I met Jodi, an artist. And, as a left-brained, linear-thinking, spreadsheet-loving gal, I can tell you that very little of the way artists process life makes any sense to me. And I think I’m only beginning to realize how desperately I need them in my life. I just don’t let them do the math when we’re eating out somewhere and it’s time to calculate the tip.
Despite our differences, I found a kindred spirit in this artist girl I’d never met. We love the same movies, we laugh at the same things. She is the Diana Barry to my Anne Shirley in the same way my friend Ethel from real life is the madcap counterpart to my zany Lucy.
How is it I’m always the redhead?
Anyway. Jodi and I have walked through similar pain in our lives. We’ve prayed for one another and for the other’s family. We love the same Jesus. So when I realized I would be in her neighborhood for The Relevant Conference, I dared to ask if I could come and meet her.
Come hungry, she said.
An early October snowstorm moved in during the course of the conference, disrupting and delaying travel plans for many. I called Jodi to update her on my plans and let her know when to expect me. And I heard her voice for the first time.
I found my way to the home of the Curious Acorn; I met Jodi and her family. She told me the stories behind the pictures on her refrigerator. She introduced me to her grandbabies. She spoke in a calm, quiet, deep, soothing voice; one like an NPR voice but without all the smugness.
I saw the famous chalkboard pantry door from pictures on Jodi’s blog. She wasn’t kidding when she’d told me to come hungry. She fed me well; she nourished my soul.
On a sideboard next to the table she’d written words she’d asked the Father to give her, words just for me:
If it’s possible for a house to breathe peace, Jodi’s does.
Most parents, I imagine, are as concerned as I am about the amount of time their children spend on the internet, and rightfully so. We warn our children about its dangers; we tell them not to reveal personal things to strangers. We encourage them to get outdoors, to embrace life in the beauty of God’s good creation. I believe God made us embodied spirits and placed us in particular places in space and time. We have been created for community and intended to reflect God to our neighbors. We are to inhabit the places we live.
I can’t quite make sense of what is happening in my life, in and through the strange reality of blog world, but something is. One of the speakers at Relevant asked, At what time in history can we go and make disciples around the world while in our pajamas and in our living rooms? I seldom know what is going on in the lives of people on the other side of this screen, those who are reading the words I’ve tapped out. I tell my stories, I get to know people; God is doing something. That’s all I know.
As I was loading up my car to leave, Jodi packaged up some of her fancy homemade gingerbread for me for the drive home. Who does something like that?
A kindred spirit. A real friend. A sister.
(The state of Connecticut is, once again, experiencing widespread power and internet outages. Linking late with Laura and L.L.
Down the hill from the lodge at the retreat center sat an art studio, staffed for the weekend by the artist-in-residence. We were invited, during free time, to come and play in the studio, to learn techniques and dabble with papers and brushes and paint. The artist talked of creating a project for others who had been on retreat; businessmen for whom the world of art supplies and creation was a foreign land. She had invited them, as those who hadn’t seen themselves as artists, to venture into the world of creativity. She called us to come and play as they had.
“I’m a Type-A person,” I told the artist. “I like lists, and schedules, and structure.”I told her of trying to do art with my friend Ethel, she who created beauty with child-like abandon and joy while I carefully counted sequins and beads and double-checked instructions. The artist dared me to be brave, to come down to the studio and play.
I wandered down the hill, found a place at the table, and sat myself on a tall stool. The artist demonstrated dry brush, wet-on-wet, and crayon resist painting. She suggested that we, as writers, add words to our work, inviting us to write using our non-dominant hands. On the wall were posted samples to inspire creativity and the words, “Give yourself permission to play.” Surrounded by every kind of art supply I could imagine, I was free to play and explore, to wander way outside the boundaries of my comfort zone and create.
And I felt like I was in prison.
I watched as others circulated through the room, considering and collecting scraps of paper and supplies, arranging and re-arranging their designs. They tried things, saw possibility, made changes; adapted. Soft music played as laughter filled the studio. I looked at the others and then looked at the paints and papers before me. I tried something. I tried something else. I couldn’t make sense of what was in front of me. I l watched the others at play and tried to imitate. Nothing looked right. I saw no beauty. I had no way to judge my efforts, to tell if anything I was doing was any good.
My heart began pounding; my breathing shallowed. Feeling hot and dizzy and trapped, I began to imagine myself toppling over from my tall stool and doing a face-plant in a puddle of Gesso. I walked away from the studio leaving my art project behind.
I walked away from this foreign land, this place where I couldn’t make sense of the language and the rhythms and the customs. In that studio, I tasted the life of an artist, a musician, a dreamer; one who had grown up trying to make sense of a world governed by lists, and schedules, and structures.
And it made me want to say, “I’m so sorry.”
Joining Laura @ The Wellspring:
And L.L. Barkat @ Seedlings in Stone:
This is the big one:
Next week, I celebrate the big one–Nancy 5-0. On August 11, 2011, I become officially eccentric.
Go ahead, smirk to yourselves; I’ll wait. I know what you’re thinking:
And, until now, just what exactly HAVE you been?
Practicing. I’ve merely been practicing. And now I get to own it,utterly and completely. I’ll be a middle-aged, gray-haired, eccentric woman who says and does the most outrageous things. In public. Without apology.
And how does one celebrate such an occasion appropriately? Well, one doesn’t. But Ethel and Rock star-diva girlfriend have some big plans for me. There will be shenanigans.
I also want to invite you to join in celebrating with me. How? By giving stuff away, of course! Because if you have never learned anything from the marvelous writings of Lewis Carroll, learn this: Although you celebrate your birthday only one day a year, there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents. And, as Humpty Dumpty says to Alice, “There’s glory for you!”
So here’s my plan: I’m going to spend my birthday celebrating un-birthdays by giving things away. Throughout the day I’m going to give gifts to random people while wishing each a happy un-birthday. At the end of the day, I imagine I will have stories to tell.
And I’m inviting you to join me. Between today and my birthday (August 11), help me celebrate by giving something away to someone–anyone. You may wish someone a happy un-birthday if you like, or simply say you’re giving stuff away because some crazy old gray-haired lady on the internet asked you to. If you have the opportunity to say that the gospel is a free gift of God’s grace, by all means, go for it.
Be creative. Pick up the tab for someone’s Starbucks. Hand a bottle of cold water to a stranger. Pass along an heirloom you know would be meaningful to someone in your family. Share an old family story. Visit someone who needs the gift of time. Send a donation to a charity you’ve been meaning to support. Dig into your re-gifting closet, wrap something up, and hand it to someone completely at random. (Don’t even think about rolling your eyes at me about the whole re-gifting thing. You know you do it).
Then come back here, leave a comment, and tell me what happened. Or, if it’s a really great story, write a blog post and link it to my Facebook page. On August 12, I will be selecting one winner from among all who leave comments, and then guess what?
I’ll be giving away another un-birthday present!
I’ll send the winner a gift card from Kiva, an organization that absolutely rocks my socks. Kiva works with microfinance partners around the world, making loans to entrepreneurs in an effort toward alleviating poverty. That means I’ll be giving away something which, if you win it, will enable you to give even more away. How much fun is that?
Through Kiva, loans are repaid by the small business owners who receive them. The current repayment rate is 98.79%. If you make a loan through Kiva, you will receive that money back. You can then either re-invest your money, helping another entrepreneur through Kiva, or use it to to download I-Tunes. Buy more farm animals for your Facebook game. Whatever you want.
I might pick a winner at random by pulling a winner out of a hat. I might spend a few hours on Google trying to figure out how a random number generator works. I might just choose the person whose story makes me laugh so hard that coffee squirts out my nose. I might be more likely to choose you if you click the box on the right and become a follower of this blog, follow me on Twitter, or Like me on Facebook (or leave me a comment saying you already do).
I make no promises. That’s the thing with eccentric people–you never know what they’ll do. Or why.
I may I wish you all a very, merry, happy, un-birthday! (Unless of course it’s your birthday also then, never mind)
(In case anyone is wondering–I receive no compensation whatsoever for promoting Kiva. I’m just doing this because I like the organization, and doing this makes me outrageously happy! )