Merry Christmas!

O Come Let Us Adore Him!

For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 
--Luke 2:11 


The Attitude of Christmas

I’ve been banging my head against a brick wall, waiting for a breakthrough. Not literally, of course. But every minute of work on my current novel has felt this way. I wanted to get it done. Fast. Early. I wanted it to be at least good—though fabulous would have been better. In the meantime, I’ve been reading through Psalms and contemplating Christmas. And then it all came together.

Not my story, though that would have been nice. No, what came clearly into focus was that my focus had shifted. It had moved from being grateful to the Lord for letting me do what I love to do—write fiction that illustrates His truths—into a desire to be noticed, to be lauded, both for the story and for how quickly I turned it out. Not an attitude that fares well when put up against Mary’s song of praise at being told of her coming pregnancy or the angels lauding the birth of the Savior of men or shepherds leaving their flocks to come worship or kings who gave of their time and their wealth to bless the King of Kings. And when combined with the spotlight of David’s praise of his God even in the midst of dire circumstances, the darkness in my heart became evident. 

I guess I’m discovering yet again that this writing journey is about so much more than accomplishing the writing. It’s about recognizing my characters flaws, my weaknesses, and falling on His grace and strength. It’s about growing my faith and conquering my pride. But even with all of that, it really isn’t about me at all. It’s about God using His work in me to declare His own glory and power and strength. My purpose is simply to praise Him through my life and my words, even if the crafting of both of those things takes longer than I wish it would. And isn’t that the attitude of Christmas—our response of praise to God’s display of Himself all around us?

May your Christmas season be filled with the joy that comes from praising our God.


A Sunday Psalm

The Lord has made His salvation known and revealed His righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered His love and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn--
shout for joy before the Lord, the King.
          --Psalm 98:2-6


Do You Hear Me?

Tuesday night, I writhed in anguish over one of my senior son’s quarterly grades. I’m not one to push at a teacher, especially when it’s a matter of an A versus a B—or even a C. But this was a matter of going into the final thinking he had a 93 average, then seeing a failing grade as his final average due to an overweighted zero on a review sheet it wasn’t clear was to be turned in before the final. (He wasn’t the only one, so I know it wasn’t made clear. After all, the rest in the class are girls!)

It was night when we discovered it. Nothing to do but wait until morning to check it out. And I would send my child in first, as is my modus operandi. (I want them to be ready to face their college professors with their questions, not always rely on their parents as their advocates.) But still, I worried. After all, this is my hard-working son. An average student but not a slacker student. My mama bear hackles rose and I wanted things made right. So in the quiet of the night, I tossed and turned—and I cried out to God. Please, I prayed. Please fix this. Don’t let all his hard work be for nothing. It isn’t right. Finally, I fell asleep.

When I woke the next morning, my stomach already churning over my son’s meeting with his teacher, I opened my Bible to the bookmarked place where I’ve been reading. Psalms. Psalm 61, to be exact. And here are the first words that met my eyes:

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint;
Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.

In those words I knew God had heard me. I was still nervous, but more peaceful. We would deal with whatever happened, good or bad, for I knew that my Lord heard me and was working in our behalf, no matter the circumstantial outcome. Maybe there were lessons even in unfairness that my son or I or both of us needed to learn. But I prayed if it came out wrong, it wouldn’t have long-reaching consequences. Not after all of his labor.

My son, ironically, wasn’t worried at all. When he came home almost an hour later, he said it was all good. When I checked his grade online at lunchtime, it reflected the work he had done—he had not only passed the class, he had a fair grade as compensation.

One day I hope my faith will override my tendency to worry. But until then, the Lord graciously continues to remind me that He hears—and that He loves and cares for my children even more than I do. And for today, that’s enough.


That Moment

This moment arrives every December—sometimes early, sometimes later. It’s the moment when I know that I know that I must finish my Christmas shopping. This year it came yesterday. I scrapped the to do list and shopped with a frenzy. I’d done a bit here and there, but this was the final push. And it’s done. Now I can relax. Or rather, work. This year relaxing takes a backseat to writing, at least until my children all show up at home again early next week.

So when do you finish shopping? Do you set yourself a deadline? Do you wing it? Do you finish with time to enjoy the anticipation of Christmas or do you scramble until the last available minute?


Christmas Rectial

We went to my son’s Christmas recital on Saturday. I know some find such events tedious, but I’ve always enjoyed them—even more so now because the time is short.
My son began his lessons with this teacher in 2nd grade. Before that, my dear friend taught him sporadically at home. In fact, she was the one who encouraged me to find him a teacher to keep him going. So we did.

When he was younger, I loved the recitals because I got to see where we were headed. This teacher always had several older boy students, so it was good for my son to have role models and aspirations to keep going. In those middle years, it was seeing where he’d come from as we watched the youngest performers and where this road would lead with the older ones.

Now, at 16, he’s one of the older ones. And while the more classical pieces he plays in his lesson domain are not his most favorite—he prefers the two praise bands, school and church, that he plays with—I’m so proud of him for sticking with it. I love the discipline it brings to his playing and the things he continues to learn that help him be a creative asset to those worship teams.

Two more years of Christmas recitals and it will be over. I want to hold on and enjoy every minute until then. 


A Sunday Psalm

May my cry come before you, O Lord;
give me understanding according to Your word.
May my supplication come before You;
deliver me according to Your promise.
May my lips overflow with praise,
for You teach me Your decrees.
May my tongue sing of Your word,
for all  Your commands are righteous.
           ---Psalm 119:169-172


What's Waiting Up Ahead?

“It would be so much easier if I knew now that I’d be published later,” said my writer friend and first-time mom-to-be.

As our conversation continued past writing on to parenting, I came back to this thought. “If I’d have known in those early, horrible years that I’d have an awesome almost twenty-year-old, it would have been so much easier.”

And yet in neither case are we allowed to know the end at the beginning. Why? Because the Lord calls us to a life of faith, of trusting in Him for the future—of our work and our children—while we simply obey day by day. We run the race with the finish line veiled in secrecy. And really, would we want it any other way? If we knew difficult things were coming, we’d shrink back from facing them. If we knew good things were coming, we wouldn’t have to push through and learn the hard lessons of suffering and dependence on God in the moment.

And so we put one foot in front of the other, every moment of every day, trusting in the goodness of God and persevering in our pursuit of godliness. And when we cross that finish line, our circumstances won’t matter. It will be our character, forged during the race of life, which wins the prize.


Racing Cars?

A friend asked me recently about the new novel in progress.

“What’s it about?” she said.

I always feel a little funny answering that question, but I did. “About a girl who ends up driving a race car. In 1916.”

Now you must know: I’m not a car girl and I’m not an adventurous risk-taker (although my drivers ed teacher did nickname me “Lead Foot.”) So this story has been a stretch for me. A fun one, but a stretch all the same.

And yet not long after that conversation I was prompted into thinking through some of my favorite cartoons from childhood and I discovered something interesting: two of my favorites involved race cars! Yes, Speed Racer and Penelope Pitstop.

It’s interesting what they have in common, both with each other and with my story. Race cars. Money. Romance. A bit of mystery. Maybe this book isn’t such a far-fetched tale after all. Maybe it’s my inner child remembering the thrill of something long forgotten.


Happy Birthday to My Husband!

I met him when he was 19 years old, a confident college junior with plans to attend law school and practice constitutional law. A dreamer wanting to change the world.

Today he turns 45, has been practicing law for twenty years, and after nineteen years of pro bono constitutional work, his favorite branch of the law is now his full-time job. And he still wants to change the world.

His hair is graying a bit—and thinning—though he won’t admit to either. He’s battled eye issues for a year and isn’t as fit as he knows he should be. But he’s a more sensitive and compassionate man than that brash 19-year-old. He loves the Lord and his family more deeply than ever. And he serves others with joy and without complaint.

Happy birthday to my sweet husband. I look forward to many, many more years of loving you.


A Sunday Psalm

This kind of sums up the Christmas season:

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before Him with thanksgiving
and extol Him with music and song.
For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
         --Psalm 95:1-3


Working Together--Separately

My husband is working from home today. Now I know some women who enjoy that kind of thing. I’m not necessarily one of them.

As much as I love my husband and enjoy being with him, I do not like it when we are both trying to work from the house. Why is that? Maybe it’s simply the jolt to my usual routine—and boy do I thrive on routine! Maybe it’s that a writer’s work often looks like no work at all. I spend time thinking, often while I’m puttering around the house doing things that don’t really matter. Maybe it’s the possibility of being interrupted once the words start to flow—or when I’m struggling to put one word after another on the screen.

Whatever it is, we have certainly not mastered the art of working together separately. Or rather, I haven’t. He seems to do just fine.