Friday, December 7, 2012

the gift

Christmas growing up was often a low-key affair. Nearly of our extended family lived across the country, and the impracticalities of transporting a large family need no explanation. So we stayed home. My siblings and I decorated the tree, and Mom (who loves baking for holidays) kept the banana, pumpkin, and zucchini bread coming.

One of my favorite Christmas memories, though, comes from my dad. My love of country music starts with him, riding in the car together and singing along to the radio. Christmas is no different - country radio celebrates the season too. In fact, Christmas is incomplete for me without three particular CDs my dad bought early in my childhood: "A Travis Tritt Christmas," Trisha Yearwood's "The Sweetest Gift," and especially Garth Brooks' "Beyond the Season."

The latter has a song with particular meaning this year. I'm battling with perfectionism anew as I apply for graduate school and consider looking for a job again. Are my efforts enough? I wonder. Don't my weaknesses disqualify me? If I really wanted this, wouldn't it show more?

Worst, perhaps, I question, do I still get to be happy now if, right now, I'm still just me?

But "The Gift," the song from Garth Brooks' album, lends me hope. It tells the story of a poor little Mexican girl who adopts a bird with a broken wing. It's Christmastime, and all of the people in her neighborhood are bringing elaborate, expensive gifts to the church to honor Christ. All Maria has to offer is a bird, so embarrassed, she waits until midnight to bring it, and then kneels at the altar and weeps for the meagerness of her gift. She hears a voice without knowing the source, and the voice assures her that He would like to see her gift. She opens the little reed cage and the bird flies into the rafters, beautifully singing "the very first nightingale's song."

It made me cry today. I often examine what I have to offer the Savior and question the audacity of giving Him something so small. And yet, "by small things are great things brought to pass." If Maria offered a bedraggled little bird, I can offer a graduate school application, a few how-to articles, and a moderately clean house. It isn't much, but with the love of God at hand, my offering can sing too.

Because of Jesus Christ, the gifts I give Him are enough. Even when I am too prideful and faithless to give, I can find forgiveness for it, and again find His love and glory.

The first Christmas, angels sang, new stars shined, and a new age began - but why? Because our Redeemer had been born. We are now free from death, free from sin, filled with joy, and filled with love.

Because of the Man the baby would grow up to be.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


I finally set up our nativity scenes.

On the left, we have one that Chris' parents, a single piece depicting Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. I think they brought it back from the Middle East somewhere, and it's carved out of olive wood. On the right, we have the one I received from the lovely Sherron, many years ago, and never had the occasion to set up. The pieces are sweet and childlike, and I especially love the little stable.

This is the full extent of our Christmas decorations this year. No lights, no tree, no ribbons. I'm a little sad about this, but for one, we're going to Texas to celebrate the holiday. For another, I think our pragmatism won this year - meaning, in this case, that I just don't think we can afford it.

Even knowing that, as I look at our nativities, I feel peace in my heart. Our simple home is so full of love, for each other and for the Savior. All the nightly prayers and morning scripture studies have really paid off. I think it's clear, in this little apartment, what Christmas is really about - decorations notwithstanding.

If you'd like to bring a little Christmas spirit into your home today, try watching this beautiful video.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

say wha?

I gave Chris a long look this morning. He was laying on the couch, waiting for me to do a few last minute things before I drove him to the bus stop. I admit, I was dragging my feet a little bit. We'd just had so much fun, making waffles and wrestling and just talking. I didn't want him to go, so the long look was a little sad.

"Hey Chris," I said. "Can I have a hug?"

"Of course." He promptly got up and put his arms around me. 

"You know," my muffled voice came from the direction of his shoulder, "it's too bad you don't like hugs."


I looked up. "What do you mean, 'what?' You think hugs are weird."

"No, I don't."

"Yes you do! We've talked about this before! Because you'd always give hugs to your roommates, because it was funny and weird, and I'd complain that you didn't really give hugs to me."

"Well, that's true. But I like hugs. I like hugs better than kisses even."

"What?? You like hugs even better than kisses?? ...Why?"

"I dunno." Chris laughed. "Haven't you realized by now that I'm not the most in-tune with my emotions?"

Oh, but babe, you don't even know how grateful I am for that sometimes. 

Last night was date night, and it being an even number day, I was "in charge." But it was a slow, headachy day, so when Chris got home I didn't have anything planned. I just knew was excited to see him, and I wanted to do something that would especially fun for him, even if I didn't have much energy. We went out to eat, but after that, we were at a loss. I wanted to know what would make Chris happy, but he just wanted to be doing something. And I started getting frustrated.

Because deep down, I have the maturity of a four-year-old.

I stopped myself from making the problem bigger, though. No snapping or storming off -- I squeezed my eyes shut and clenched my teeth, successfully warding off any glares or unkind words. I even tried to take a few deep breaths to calm down, and instead two big, fat tears fell down my cheeks. Ugh.

But Chris just smiled gently. "This is the part where Sara wants to get mad at me, but she doesn't, because she's an awesome wife." Not a smidgen of judgment, nor a hair of impatience. Just an observation, a compliment, and that sweet, loving smile.

That's just his personality. I may get impatient with his mellowness, but he's mellow about my impatience, and I'm so grateful. I really wish it wasn't my first impulse to get upset, or at least that I had some sort of poker face while I was telling myself to get a grip! I'm working on it though, and in the meantime, Chris is totally my inspiration. 

Best. Husband. Ever.