'Tis the season...

I heard that phrase the other day. Two women were talking about the hectic pace these next few fleeting days will hold. The stress. The striving. The crash that inevitably follows.

"Well, you know... 'tis the season..."

It wasn't said sarcastically. Instead, it seemed to hold a sense of weariness. And then I realized how those words have left my very own lips.

It stopped me in my tracks. One of those all-the-gears-click-into-place epiphanies. Too often we hear people gripe about the rampant commercialism of the Christmas season. Or we know people who put on brave faces and false smiles to get through one more holiday with a broken heart, a longing left unfulfilled, a strained relationship, shame, financial struggles, grief or some combination thereof. We shrug our shoulders and resolve ourselves to just keep pushing through, hauling all our hurts through the motions of celebration.

We talk about surviving the holidays. The odd gifts we receive that instantly go in the re-gifting pile. The strained, shallow conversations that might happen at work holiday parties. The mountains of pressure and effort to clean, cook, bake, host and make sure we have the holliest jolliest Currier and Ives Christmas EVER. 

Yet I know better. This sacred season isn't about my piety or perfection, giving manicured Martha Stewart a run for her money in the kitchen, having a magazine feature worthy home, or giving gorgeous gifts. 

The Advent -- this expectant waiting -- is all about salvation. About restoration. About grace.

Have you ever had something just stick in your head and refuse to leave? A line or phrase that just keeps popping up throughout a season of life -- sometimes even multiple times a day? Just me? 

We are in a sermon series at my church called Christmas At The Movies. The first week tied between Miracle on 34th Street (one of my personal faves) and the God who performs miracles (Psalm 77:14) and the season of miracles that is Christmas.

If you want to listen to the sermon or the entire series, you can stream them online here.

The point that has seemingly been plastered to my heart ever since is this:

The miraculous is certainly messy. It was for Mary and Joseph. It is for us. And yet, in spite of how hard and foreign it can seem, God is at work in all of the circumstances and through all of what appears to be obstacles.

Can you even imagine how disheartening it had to feel for Mary and Joseph that first Christmas? What do you mean -- my fiance is pregnant?  that we have to pay more taxes? we have to travel so far away from home?  this stable is all that is available to us? 

Can't you picture them cold, exhausted, worried, harried.... and looking anything but how most artists have displayed the Nativity throughout the centuries? 

Yet God's plan was in motion and from the midst of the darkness and strife, the light of the world was about to dawn and change everything. 

If I know in my knower and believe in my heart that the miracle of Christmas is Christ-with-us, Emmanuel, then this season is really about what has already been done for me. For all of us.

Several weeks ago, I discovered a new band, Page CVXI. The name comes from the C.S. Lewis work, The Magician's Nephew, and page 116, where Aslan, the lion, sings Narnia into existence from the darkness. {Confession: I LOVE all things C.S. Lewis and read The Chronicles of Narnia every January. So, they sort of had me from the name.} Well, ever since, I've been listening to their album,  Advent to Christmas, almost non-stop. It's available for purchase on iTunes or you can listen to the entire album online from Relevant Magazine here.

And as happens, in the shop, with music playing in the background, I always seem to hear certain snippets of songs and lyrics at various moments. Yet the song that seems to usher in this swelling in my spirit, this blossoming of hope and peace is Comfort, Comfort My People.

Comfort, comfort now my people. Tell of his peace with no end. Comfort, comfort those in darkness. Tell them that God's pardon waits for them.

The Glory of the Lord now on earth is shed. In deserts far and near, he will raise what's dead. His peace has been spoken. His word is never broken. The Kingdom of God is now here.

Straight shall be what's crooked. Making all the rougher places plain. Let your hearts be humble befitting our God's glory and his reign

Let the valleys rise to meet him, the hills all will bow down in praise.
Let the valleys rise to greet him, the hills bow down in praise.
Let the valleys rise to greet him, the hills bow down in praise

The Glory of the Lord now on earth is shed. In deserts far and near, he will raise what's dead. The Glory of the Lord now on earth is shed. In deserts far and near, he will raise what's dead. His peace has been spoken. His word is never broken. The Kingdom of God is now here.

His peace has been spoken. His word is never broken. The Kingdom of God is now here.

I am firmly convinced that all the hurts we haul around with us and try to hide at the holidays are the hard, miraculous circumstances through which God is working and dawning not only in us -- but through us. The moments in our life where He wants to speak peace and let glory shine.

That's my prayer for this next week. For all of us. That we would be obedient to the miraculous things God is working around us. That joy would well up and overflow our hearts.

And that, underneath all the packages and presents, each one of us would find that peace has been our gift this Christmas.


Merry & Bright 2014 ...

... is just three weeks away. 

Can you believe that is even a thing? That your friends are sharing photos on Facebook of Buddy the Elf announcing only 10 more Fridays until CHRISTMAS?!

I can't believe it either, except for the fact that my calendar and to-do list are staring me in the face as I finally find a small wedge of time to write this.

But as often happens, every year, after weeks of late nights, little sleep, meals grabbed on the fly, and a good amount of drive and adrenaline (aka stress), it all comes together and I'm left to observe and experience the holiday open house  in a cloud of wonder that this is my life.

And you're invited! So grab some good friends and come explore all the treasures that I've been holding (alright, I confess, hoarding) back for the event.

I am so proud of this year's event invitation. Along with the shop, I do all of my own graphic design as well as some freelance work for other merchants. But c'mon now -- a sweet cherubic French angel with glitter and paper lace and scrolls... and did I say GLITTER? I'm totally saving this design back to make Christmas cards.

Anyway, this darling girl will be going out to all of the local customers who prefer to get real mail once-a-year from the shop. I hope it makes them as happy as it does me.

She'll also be showing up in e-mail inboxes for our monthly newsletter

The shop is closing and I'm going to get home so that I can grab a quick dinner before working on more projects and price some new merch that I can't wait to display.

Christmas is coming... let the count down begin!

Have a blessed evening, lovelies!