Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Joy to the World

This last Sunday I shared why Joy to the World is one of my favorite Christmas carols. In typical fashion, I didn't write it out and so stuttered and hemmed and hawed, struggling to articulate the words in my head. 

This is what I was trying to say.

I love advent. I cherish the time of preparation, the solemn darkness of the weeks leading up to Christmas. I'm glad we don't skip over advent and rush straight into Christmas, missing all the nuances, all the reasons why Christmas is. We reflect on the peace, hope, joy, and light that Christmas will bring. And we long. Oh, how we long. O Come, O Come Emmanuel! It speaks to my heart, advent does.

And this year advent has felt particularly important, relevant, needed. But it's also felt extra dark. The darkness that we live in both figuratively and literally is heavy and thick. We need no reminders. We are already longing for the light.

But sometimes I long so much for peace and hope and light I forget about joy. How dare we dream of joy when peace and love and even basic kindness seem so far from reach? Joy is audacious. Joy is a luxury. How do we sing of joy in a world so broken?

I feel comfortable in advent - ruminating, praying, hoping, expecting. I know how to live here, waiting for the light to come.

I'm not so good at proclaiming that the light HAS come to a world still so dark.

But at Christmas we rejoice! We are given a reason, THE reason to rejoice, and the joy is undeniable. We claim it. We proclaim it. We sing Joy to the World and we remember that there is joy - great joy and we rejoice. As we should.


Joy to the World reminds me of my Grandpa, a most joy-filled man. I can hear him singing loudly, swinging his arms and holding the notes longer than everyone else for extra emphasis. Joy to the World reminds me of times spent singing Christmas carols around my mom's piano and it reminds me of a drive home from the mountains when Adam and I sang carols a cappella with my grandparents the whole way home. It reminds me of Grandpa leading the Christmas Eve service when he would visit our church in Calgary and how we'd end with candles and Silent Night. But as I remember it, Joy to the World was the real finale, the most fitting way to end a Christmas service. Because... JOY also, has the final word.

The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the earth
the Savior reigns
Let all their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

No more let sin and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as, the curse is found.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

a letter to a friend - on pregnancy

I have a couple of friends who are expecting their first babies soon. One wrote to me asking for advice and opinions on baby gear and maternity clothes. This is what I wrote instead because this is what I have to say (barely edited, unpolished). She said it should be published so I'm posting it here. Maybe you need to hear the words, too.

Oh my dear friend,

Pregnancy is super fun isn't it? I hope you let yourself feel EVERYTHING that you feel and don't listen to anyone's nonsense of how it's supposed to be. Don't let anyone make you feel like this pregnancy erases the pain of your last. Actually, don't listen to anyone at all.

I loved being pregnant with Anna when I didn't hate it. Less so with Etta. And there's all the stress and worry and disappointment when you're trying and then the fear amplifies when you're finally pregnant and simply explodes when your baby is born.

It's all crazy.

And so SO hard.


Through all the terrible parts of it: the illness, the loss of control and autonomy, the mourning of a closing of a chapter, and all the crazy hormones there is still this... a baby. And no matter what happens, just as it was the first time but surely with a happier ending this time, your life will be forever changed. And I would say that it's always hard and never easy but oh my goodness, so profoundly incredible.

As far as pregnancy and baby advice I mean it when I say don't listen to anyone. Seriously. Other than this: don't be an a**hole - vaccinate your kids. Also, you need LESS stuff than you think. Way less. But most of all, in pregnancy, in motherhood, in all things - GRACE. Give yourself some grace. If you're like you'll feel like a huge screw up all the time and convinced you have ruined your kids forever. You'll look at these most beautiful, awe-inspiring creatures and think that you have taken all the good in them and tarnished it will all your terrible parenting and you will torture yourself with regret and good intentions. So try to remember the wise words of Glennon Doyle Melton and 'don't be so busy trying to raise a good kid that you forget you HAVE a good kid.' You will love your kid well so you have already won this war. Plus you have your husband and he's amazing. A husband who is truly your partner in this and a dad who will really be a parent. And you are strong - so strong and level, grounded. So remember that. Don't forget who you are.

And there's this. I still tell Anna every night that I love her more than anyone has ever loved anything ever before. I know it's not true, but I feel like it is. And every time I say it I feel a bit heretical knowing a God whose love is so much greater than any I can comprehend. But I say it because caveats are confusing, but I remember that there IS that caveat and am grateful to my toes for it. I don't feel God's love the way I feel the all-consuming love for my kids and there is guilt with that for sure. But I'm learning and understanding God's love in an all new way. I never knew I could love something so much, and it just blows me away to fathom a love greater than this. And to share that with my kids, to have them feel secure and grounded in all this Love, well how incredible is that?! By extension I'm understanding how loved I am a little better, too.

This is the bad news... the fear, the knowing better - that doesn't go away. And sadly for you, you know all too well the reasons we have to fear. And I don't know how things will be for you. I don't know if your loss will highlight your gratitude or shadow it, or more likely, both. But I know that being a parent is the most gut-wrenching, terrifying, disorienting experience I can imagine. And there is so much fear. I don't know how to cope with it other than living with it but I do know that the joy that is found in the present is stronger than the fear that lies in the future. Most of the time. Minute by minute, the little undeniable joys of parenthood make the fear and the uncertainty worth it somehow. It's only in letting myself feel the joy (and there is so much) that I am starting to combat the ever persistent fear. It's hard to do, wanting instead to to hedge against my fear so there isn't so much to lose (God forbid) but when I let myself enjoy all I have, oh my goodness, what joy there is. Learn to embrace the joy.

So... I've answered none of your questions and rambled about nothing but for today that is what I have.

Feel all the feels.
Give yourself some grace.
Vaccinate your kids.

I love you, I really do. You are one of the good ones.



Thursday, December 10, 2015

Merry Christmas Card - 2015

Merry Christmas from the Johnsons!

Our 2015 was filled with love, laughter and a whole lot of fun. Anna (5) and Etta (1.5) bring us so much joy with their silly, sassy and sweet selves. We kept busy this year traveling to visit family and making memories of our own in our beloved Seattle.

We're grateful for you and miss you. Please come visit!

Praying that peace, goodwill with all abide this Holy Christmastide,

Adam, Sheri, Anna & Etta Johnson