Sunday, December 28, 2008

Where the Road Leads

My sister and I awoke at dark-thirty this morning to take her to the airport in Austin. As we backed out of the driveway and headed down the road that today would lead us both away from home, I found myself amazed at the fact that we had shared ten days together as a family. A rare treat any time of the year, but especially during the holidays.

As I pulled away from the airport, I contemplated which route to choose to return to my house. Due to the rain and the hectic pace of I-35, I thought I'd take the longer, slower country route. But then I noticed a new road up ahead. A toll road that I'd heard good things about. One that beckoned me with its large letters advertising that it would take me to Waco. In spite of knowing little about the road's route and having no coins for the toll, I opted for the toll road.

It took a little while for me to figure out that I could drive to my heart's content, allowing the cameras to take pictures of my vehicle so that the authorities could bill me for the tolls later. Once I figured out this process, I enjoyed the drive over this unpopulated area outside the city that appeared to have been previously uncharted. The three other cars on my side of the road alternated places with me as we navigated the misting rain, watching the miles to Dallas decrease sign by sign.

After about forty minutes, my relaxing drive on the new road morphed into clenched jaws and white-knuckled hands on the steering wheel as I saw an unexpected sign: Toll road ends. Exit now onto I-35. With the rain starting to pound heavier, the toll road forced me to enter I-35 just north of Georgetown; its advertisement--that it would take me to Waco--a lie.

Although the toll road saved me from driving on I-35 for that brief period, I felt taken advantage of. I will receive a bill in the days ahead for driving on a road that I would not have taken had I known where it led. Yet, I know now not to use that road in the future.

I see similar parallels with some of the roads I have chosen to take in my life. I probably wouldn't have chosen some of them if I had known ahead of time the exact route that they would take or the place where they would end. Yet, some of them have taught me valuable lessons that I would not have learned any other way than by walking down them.

So as the New Year rapidly approaches, which road will you take? The one that is known, the one that is unknown, or maybe a combination of each? Whichever you choose, may you enjoy the scenery as you move down it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

More Memories

In between rounds of the card games golf and spades, walking, and cooking, we've had some fun photo opportunities. Here's a glimpse of what's been going on at our house:

Annie is such a sweetie and goes along with our antics.

Christmas carols, anyone?

"Santa" brought us a live noble fir from San Antonio, but Annie slept through it.

Annie decided to wait until Sunday to be photogenic.

A little sisterly fun!

I wish we had a video that captured how we took the following shots by posing a camera on a tower of boxes. As hard as it is to capture children, it seems even more difficult to get a picture that three adult women will agree is good of everyone. There were at least seven (if not more) versions of this shot, but these two made my cut.

And here's what happens when you don't have the best lighting and wear a black sweater dress with black tights and black tall boots . . . it comes off as somewhat of a space suit!

I hope to recommence real blogging with words soon. Stay tuned!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Making Memories

It's as if Christmas time counts differently than the normal minutes and hours we see and feel the rest of the year. I've been home for three days, but even that feels like a minute in spite of all that we've done together as a family. Here are some of my favorite memories thus far:

On Thursday, my sister drove me and my dog home, and the almost 4.5 hour drive seemed like it took no time at all. We sang and talked and even got in a little shopping along the way. She said that the only reason she knew it had taken a while was that the steering wheel started to feel "fat." If you make long drives, hopefully you'll understand that.

At night, and only at night, it seems that my dog chooses the exact same place to go potty: right near the manger scene that is brightly illuminated in our neighbors' yard and right when there is a line of cars driving by to look at the lights.

On Friday, we took lunch to my mom at work. We received the royal treatment by being introduced as "Kathy's daughters." That evening, we made journals. It was as if we were at camp, and we enjoyed watching one another's creativity flow onto the covers.

On Saturday, we took a short road trip to a nearby town and did some shopping in an attic. Fun doesn't even begin to describe the time we had! We hope to make that an annual tradition.

Today, we visited with old friends at church and then received a surprise visit during the afternoon from one of the girls that I used to babysit. Mom answered the door and did not recognize the visitor until she introduced herself as Candice. It was fun to catch up with her and her family.

It's wonderful to have no place we "have" to be other than right where we are, spending time with each other and making memories. I hope that you allow Christmas time to go at its own pace and make wonderful memories with your family as well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Welcome Home!

It took over three weeks, numerous phone calls, and two trips to Knoxville, Tennessee, but my computer is finally home. It supposedly has a new hard drive and a new motherboard, so we'll see how it goes. The frustrating process of getting my computer fixed could be its own post, and it wouldn't paint me in a very nice light. So, I'll postpone that for now.

And now that my computer is home, it's time for me to leave. I am making the road trip home tomorrow and looking forward to having my sister at the helm during our annual sister road trip. I should be able to post from there as the muse and time allow.

In the meantime, I've posted my Christmas letter below and wish all of you a wonderful Christmas with family and friends!

2008 Christmas Letter

My friend Madison was kind enough to highlight some points from my Christmas letter on her blog, so I've decided to post it here for those of you who know me only via the blogosphere.

As I sit down to write this letter and reflect on 2008, most of the year seems like a repeat of 2007. Same church, same friends, same job, same house, same dog. Had the year come to a close in June, I could have sent a duplicate of last year’s letter. But then July came, and my story changed.

While I was working at my same job, I was offered and accepted a part-time position to teach a class called Legal Analysis Research & Writing III. My duties included teaching a two-hour class for thirteen weeks on how to draft an appellate brief and prepare and deliver an appellate argument. It looked a lot easier on paper than it turned out to be.

As I struggled with the textbook, the length of the teaching time, and the disinterest of the students, I found myself making assumptions as to why the students would not participate in class and why they lacked focus. When one student chatted online and laughed throughout my class, I assumed that she was bored and preferred chatting online over taking notes. When another student repeatedly failed to come to class and turn in assignments on time, I assumed that he was blowing off my class in lieu of some of his four-hour classes. And when one student sent me questions via email two and three times a week but did not ask questions in class, I assumed that he was not prepared for class. Somehow my assumptions convinced me to believe that they were these students’ real stories, but they were far from it.

The online chatter later came up to me and explained that the one-year anniversary of the death of a sibling was approaching and that she and her family were struggling to deal with the weight of the loss. The absent student explained that he was trying to keep a third-generation business going in a tough economy, as well as lead a family, and that, much to his chagrin, his classes were at the bottom of his priority list. The emailing student later revealed that he had a speech impediment and that it was much easier to email than to stutter through a question in front of his peers.

Hearing my students’ real stories reminded me that everyone has a story. And just as no two snowflakes are alike, neither are the stories of those around us.

Just as Mary put her focus on relationships, by spending time with Elizabeth prior to giving birth to the Savior, my prayer is that we will also invest in those around us by taking the time to listen to their stories instead of assuming that we know a story just because a person acts a certain way.

So when you see a snowflake, I hope it will spur you to find out someone’s story. And I hope that you will share your story with me because I’d love to know how your story has changed this year.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Paying Attention

As I've thought about the Christmas song that I posted below, a scene from my trip home at Thanksgiving has been replaying in my mind.

After I boarded the train, I noticed a father and daughter sitting in one row ahead of me on the opposite side of the train. I smiled as the father drew a picture for his daughter as his daughter coached him on what to add to the picture. A text message on the father's phone interrupted the scene unfolding on the drawing pad. He quickly typed a text message back. And then another. And then another.

At some point, he resumed drawing the scene that his daughter had requested, but not before his daugher asked, "Daddy, when are we going on a vacation?"

He replied, "We are on vacation. I'm off from work."

The response did not satisfy her. But she left her father alone with his phone.

This little girl has grown up in an age of electronics and probably doesn't crave the type of undivided attention that we, who grew up without parents with cell phones, know. Or does she?

I toyed with that question: whether we are all wired with a desire to have the undivided attention of a loved one. At our core, I think we do, and I think that people will fail to fulfill that desire over and over again throughout our lives.

But there is One who awaits to give us that undivided attention around the clock. We may not always feel seen, but He sees us. And my prayer is that we will turn to Him to meet our desires, not just during the holidays, but every day.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Morning Coffee, Round 3

I posted over at Morning Coffee today, so stop by and take a read.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

2008 Christmas Song

Last year, I decided to post a new Christmas song that had quickly become my favorite. I want to continue this tradition, so this year I have chosen a song by Casting Crowns entitled "While You Were Sleeping."

Oh little town of Bethlehem
Looks like another silent night
Above your deep and dreamless sleep
A giant star lights up the sky
And while you're lying in the dark
There shines an everlasting light
For the King has left His throne
And is sleeping in a manger tonight

Oh Bethlehem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
For God became a man
And stepped into your world today
Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

Oh little town of Jerusalem
Looks like another silent night
The Father gave His only Son
The Way, the Truth, the Life had came
But there was no room for Him in the world He came to save

Jerusalem, what you have missed while you were sleeping
The Savior of the world is dying on your cross today
Jerusalem, you will go down in history
As a city with no room for its King
While you were sleeping
While you were sleeping

United States of America
Looks like another silent night
As we're sung to sleep by philosophies
That save the trees and kill the children
And while we're lying in the dark
There's a shout heard 'cross the eastern sky
For the Bridegroom has returned
And has carried His bride away in the night

America, what will we miss while we are sleeping
Will Jesus come again
And leave us slumbering where we lay
America, will we go down in history
As a nation with no room for its King
Will we be sleeping
Will we be sleeping

The verses about America are haunting. What will happen while we "are sleeping" or simply not paying attention? Will we allow ourselves to be lulled by the media and become numb to the struggles around us? Or will we take a different approach and open our hearts to those around us? Will we make room in our busy lives for our King?