Shameless bit of self-promotion here but I have ‘relaunched’ my blog The Unpaving Paradise Project, where I plan to blog about homemaking, frugality, environmental issues and the process of decluttering and organising our home. Do take the time to have a look. God bless x
So it’s just us this year, which is fine by me. Frank cooked the dinner, a wonderful roast duck with cranberry & orange stuffing, accompanied by roast parsnips, roast baby potatoes, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and onion gravy. All I did was microwave the Christmas pudding, pull a cracker or two, read the obligatory terrible jokes and wear a silly hat. Do you think the Queen wears a silly hat at Christmas? It seems almost unpatriotic not to. We’re British: surely it’s against the law to not wear a paper hat and eat Brussels sprouts on Christmas Day? Methinks we ought to wear a festive crown of sprouts and eat the paper hat – it would surely taste better. (Did you see what I did there? I came over all Shakespearey. Very patriotic if I do say so myself, thank you kindly.)
We had Frank’s mother for dinner. Not literally, you understand; I’m not fond of mutton. No, but really, she thoroughly enjoyed her presents and her dinner and was still smiling when I took her back to the care home, which in the difficult-to-navigate waters of dementia was an excellent result. Prince had a wobble at the dinner table but overall he’s been ok. Ish. He loved his gifts, and we even saw a smile! Patience is indeed a virtue (autocorrect wanted to put ‘patience is indeed a virus’ I’m tapping this out on a second-hand Kindle as my laptop has died).
My darling husband gave me a gorgeous Japanese teaset AND a Hyperbole and a Half 2016 calendar! 😀 Definitely on the shortlist for Husband of the Year. Fluff loves her new Keep Warm and Hug a Pony jumper. She nearly cried when she unwrapped it. Chip has fallen in love with her walking, yapping(?) unicorn (a gift from granny). The girls have spent the afternoon playing charades and are now combining the art of toasting marshmallows over an open fire with watching our special family Christmas movie – Shaun the Sheep. Not a particularly Christmassy movie… unless you count the fact that there were sheep in the Christmas story. Well, there were shepherds. Ultimately it’s a tale of love, redemption and unwavering devotion so perhaps not so un-Christmassy.
Ooh, Fluff just handed me a double toasted marshmallow. Plus, this Shaun the Sheep film is hilarious, so Godspeed, dear friends. Enjoy the rest of the festivities. And remember: Jesus is the reason for the season 😉
Hello, blogland! How’s things? Happy Advent.
Here I am listening to Shaun Groves’ Christmas album while my girls are colouring a Christmas scroll. I’ve tidied and cleaned and done the laundry and put the clothes away and made the beds and done the dishes and cooked the dinner (home made bread and my own Delish Fish Dish). And rested. I still have to rest quite a lot. I spent the day doing housework and listening to a mixture of big band, blues and gospel music interspersed with the wonderful Juliet Stevenson reading Jane Eyre.
After dinner we did our Jesse Tree readings and lit the candles of our Advent wreath, then we played a game of Star Wars Happy Families. I have never been more content. I have everything I need and more. Strange. All I feel is thankfulness.
According to some Christian traditions, we’re still in the Christmas season, which lasts not 12 but 40 days. I’ve been thinking about the exhausted young mother with her new baby in those early weeks. I feel a bit like I have the ‘baby blues’ today – happy, sad, mad all at once… and so tired zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz I only managed 30 minutes of studying today before my brain conked out. Meh.
Over Christmas I listened to a singer called Andrew Greer, and the song below has been echoing around my head today. I was introduced to this musician by Thomas over on My Random Thoughts (thank you, Thomas).
On the composition of the album, Andrew writes ‘In composing and recording… I wanted to … recognize the beautiful melancholy that lingers with us during December’s autumnal darkness. For the lyrical framework, I picked phrases from the triumphant carol “Joy to the World” to juxtapose with my own interpretation of the harsh contrast Christmas reveals between hope and despair.
The memory of a spouse’s premature death, a forfeiture of personal innocence—Christmas yet infuses our day-to-day doubts, fears, and questions with glorious glimmers of hope. It is the stark awareness that God, the Creator of the cosmos, surrendered Himself to a body of bones to commune with us in the midst of our pain. It’s the reason we can say, “No more let sorrows grow / Hold the child and hear him crying / No more let sorrows grow / He knows my troubles . . .”
Andrew has a beautiful, unadorned singing style and unsentimental yet earnest lyrics that embody both pain and hope:
‘Far as the curse is found / They say he’s digging for diamonds in the rubble / Far as the curse is found / My troubles.’
Shhh… Don’t wake the baby 🙂
Advent when you are a child is a time of great expectancy. It is a time of tinsel and lights and parties and nativity plays and fun. On the final day, Father Christmas brings you a sack full of goodies and you eat your own weight in chocolate and mince pies before the end of the year.
Sometimes, Christmas is like that for adults, too. Many of us focus on the glittering, the twinkling, the excuse for a drink or two – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But Christmas isn’t an excuse for a party. Advent isn’t the preparation for gluttony and falling asleep after the Queen’s Speech. Advent is the time we expect the unexpected, yet long-awaited, child who was to rescue the world. In a desperately dark time, when there was famine and dissent and war, Jesus’ contemporaries awaited a saviour who would perhaps sweep across the Middle East, who would destroy their enemies and become a powerful, warrior king – King David with knobs on. But God didn’t choose to be the great destroyer; God instead redeemed His people by sending Himself as a baby.
Then, when He was still small, Jesus became a refugee – the lowest of the low, the least of the least.
There are many Christian refugees fleeing persecution as I write
‘…since you have plenty at this time… you should help those… in need.‘
2 Corinthians 8:14 (GNT)
The God of heaven became the God of earth by taking not the form of the most mighty, but the form of the most vulnerable. Like His death on the most gruesome, humiliating piece of torture equipment that the ancient world could imagine (crucifixion was the Roman idea of absolute subjugation of the occupied nation – more on that during Lent, perhaps)… yes, like Jesus’ death, His birth was, and still is, totally, utterly, beyond counter-intuitive – it’s counter-counter-counter intuitive; it’s virtually insane. God becoming man is crazy enough. But before He became a man, He entered the world as we all do, ‘between the p*** and the s***’ to quote St. Augustine. What God is this who would make of Himself a tiny, squalling, red-in-the-face, blood smeared ball of humanity, utterly dependent and utterly vulnerable? What crazy God is this? And what woman was Mary that God entrusted her with His precious son? Does this give an insight into the Roman Catholic reverence for the ‘mother of God’, perhaps?
Our world is still crazy and screwed up and filled with sorrow. It is also thriving, beautiful and filled with joy. How can it be all of these things, all at once? To paraphrase Ann Voskamp, it’s not the screwed-up-ness of the world that is noteworthy, it’s the good bits – they’re the most crazy… and the good bits were made flesh incarnate in the form of our tiny, newborn king.
Come, O come, Emmanuel…
We’re waiting for Christmas in this season of advent, waiting for Christ the Redeemer, the Rescuer. As for me, I’m still waiting for EMDR therapy. It’s been nearly two years since I was first assessed by psychological services (or whatever the heck they’re called). I had to see several different people, for several different assessments. On the second appointment, the woman asked me “So, how do you compare yourself as you are now to how you are normally?”
I considered this and eventually replied, “I don’t know. I’ve never really known what ‘normal’ is like.” I then told her a brief life history. She referred me on. And then the next person referred me on. And then the next one put me on the EMDR waiting list.
Sometimes something will trigger a memory and I struggle to maintain a hold on reality, on normality. And then, even though I manage much better these days to keep the veneer of ‘okayness’, I feel drained and discouraged. I can’t even talk about the triggers, because they’re too personal, too intimate. Why do I feel ashamed of these ‘intimate’ triggers and their ‘intimate’ effects? I’m too tired to even be angry about it all any more. It just is. But being awash with disgust is soul destroying. It’s disabling in the very real sense of the word. What is the most disgusting thing that you can think of? What makes you physically nauseated just to think about it? Can you imagine living with that, and the shame and disgust associated with your own, private being, within your own self? I know that the shame is not mine, but because it is linked to me in such a deeply personal way, it is mine. I hope that when I do finally have the EMDR therapy I can be stronger, more resilient and better able to take care of everyone. I try my best, for the children in particular. Every day. One day at a time, but for how many days? I waited before. I waited and waited for years and years and years for God to act, for God to intervene, for God to stop the evil.
In the past few years I have read the following passage several times and wondered why it’s there. I have wrestled with it. God doesn’t intervene to save the woman. God doesn’t even punish the murderers, or the cowardly men who pushed her outside to save their own skins. Her ‘husband’, who had just travelled for days and days across the country in order to fetch her back after she had run off – ‘husband’ in inverted commas because she doesn’t even warrant the status of a wife, she is less than a wife; she is property, a thing – this man who is at least supposed to protect her instead deliberately pushes her into the midst of a violent, seething mob. She is attacked and violated so viciously that she dies. And what happens?
…[The] servant said to his master, “Why don’t we stop and spend the night here in this Jebusite city?”
But his master said, “We’re not going to stop in a city where the people are not Israelites. We’ll pass on by and go a little farther and spend the night at Gibeah…”… It was sunset when they came to Gibeah… They went into town and sat down in the city square, but no one offered to take them home for the night.
While they were there, an old man came by… The old man noticed the traveller in the city square and asked him, “Where do you come from? Where are you going?”
The Levite answered, “We… are on our way home deep in the hill country of Ephraim. No one will put us up for the night, even though we have… everything we need.”
The old man said, “You are welcome in my home! I’ll take care of you; you don’t have to spend the night in the square.” So he took them home with him and fed their donkeys. His guests washed their feet and had a meal. They were enjoying themselves when all of a sudden some sexual perverts from the town surrounded the house and started beating on the door. They said to the old man, “Bring out that man that came home with you! We want to have sex with him!”
But the old man went outside and said to them, “No, my friends! Please! Don’t do such an evil, immoral thing! This man is my guest. Look! Here is his concubine and my own virgin daughter. I’ll bring them out now, and you can have them. Do whatever you want to with them. But don’t do such an awful thing to this man!” But the men would not listen to him. So the Levite took his concubine and put her outside with them. They raped her and abused her all night long and didn’t stop until morning.
At dawn the woman came and fell down at the door of the old man’s house, where her husband was. She was still there when daylight came. Her husband got up that morning, and when he opened the door to go on his way, he found his concubine lying in front of the house with her hands reaching for the door. He said, “Get up. Let’s go.” But there was no answer. So he put her body across the donkey and started on his way home. When he arrived, he went in the house and got a knife. He took his concubine’s body, cut it into twelve pieces, and sent one piece to each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Everyone who saw it said, “We have never heard of such a thing! Nothing like this has ever happened since the Israelites left Egypt! We have to do something about this! What will it be?”
Extract from Judges 19
Why is this passage even in the bible! I’m sure there have been arguments and debates over this, but my (unlearned) opinion is that this passage is here, in Judges, part of the inspired Word of God, for people like me: people for whom someone could have acted to stop evil, people for whom someone should have acted to stop evil, and people for whom the help didn’t come.
Hundreds of years after this woman (she is not even given the dignity of a name) was brutalised, Jesus came. He was rejected, beaten, humiliated, shamed for sins not his own. In Jesus, in His birth, His life, His teaching, in His healing, His death and resurrection, that woman and I, we find hope. I find myself.
‘Jesus Is Rejected at Nazareth
…Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath he went as usual to the synagogue. He stood up to read the Scriptures and was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it is written,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has chosen me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed
and announce that the time has come
when the Lord will save his people.”
Jesus rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. All the people in the synagogue had their eyes fixed on him, as he said to them, “This passage of scripture has come true today, as you heard it being read.”
They were all well impressed with him and marveled at the eloquent words that he spoke. They said, “Isn’t he the son of Joseph?”
He said to them, “I am sure that you will quote this proverb to me, ‘Doctor, heal yourself.’ You will also tell me to do here in my hometown the same things you heard were done in Capernaum. I tell you this,” Jesus added, “prophets are never welcomed in their hometown. Listen to me: it is true that there were many widows in Israel during the time of Elijah, when there was no rain for three and a half years and a severe famine spread throughout the whole land. Yet Elijah was not sent to anyone in Israel, but only to a widow living in Zarephath in the territory of Sidon. And there were many people suffering from a dreaded skin disease who lived in Israel during the time of the prophet Elisha; yet not one of them was healed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were filled with anger. They rose up, dragged Jesus out of town, and took him to the top of the hill on which their town was built. They meant to throw him over the cliff, but he walked through the middle of the crowd and went his way.’
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word do I hope.
Come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel.
For we are all
Captive as well,
Ransom captive Israel.
I am so looking forward to using our advent wreath this year, with the accompanying book Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. We are going to inherit my parents’ Christmas tree and we’ll decorate with home made ornaments created using origami and salt dough. Today is ‘make Christmas cards’ day, using cards from last year 😀
I am also thrilled to be trying out Ann’s guide to a grateful Christmas, where the focus is gently moved away from consumerism and back towards a celebration of the birth of the most special baby.
As Christmas of My Make Do and Mend Year approached a couple of years ago, I had a rant about advent calendars, and blogged about my idea for doing an activity each day with the Smalls.
I totally LOVE this idea, probably more than the kids do. They have been bought Lego calendars by a relative, which I am sure will be a billion times more exciting than my attempts to step away from consumerism, but I am determined to persevere with this idea!
So for anyone else wanting to do a similar thing, here is my list of 24 Advent Activities for you to pick from if you’d like 🙂
I’ve tried to vary it a bit from last years, but some of these things are becoming tradition.
(I know it’s probably too late now, but if you are still wanting a homemade Advent calendar, then there are…
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One thing about being poorly is that, sooner or later, children realise you’re not joking when you say you’re too tired. Fluff, the middle child, today made Christmas biscuits, all on her own. I supervised from the comfy kitchen chair (designated as Mummy’s Chair), only intervening when there was An Incident involving exploding curry powder. Don’t ask. I still smell like cumin.
Christmas can be difficult for people of any age with Autism Spectrum Disorders. They like to be in control, and surprises, even nice surprises, are outside that control. This can provoke massive anxiety.Yesterday, after (what felt like) thirty hours non-stop of questions about Christmas presents from Prince, I eventually told him that if I heard one more word about his Christmas presents, I would take them all and give them to charity. He knows me well enough not to continue (because, ,as he says, I am Strict) and stomped off to his bedroom, where he was later found pacing and muttering about who he thinks is buying him a DAB radio (his latest obsession).
Merry Christmas from multicolouredsmartypants!