All is Calm

This has been the calmest December of my life.  No holiday parties, parades, or paraphernalia.  No white elephant, secret Santa, or cookie exchanges. This Christmas, all is calm.

But all is not bright.  We’re edging nearer and nearer to the winter solstice and the sun only feebly attempts to show its for a mere six hours a day.  All is calm, but all is dark.

The absence of a frenzy of festivities combined with long shadows make for a very different Christmas experience this year.  These dusky days are teaching me the importance of light and hope, a lesson that’s easy to forget in sunny San Diego.  My advent reading included this prophecy from Isaiah chapter nine – a beautiful reminder that it is in the darkness that the hope of Christ’s coming shines all the brighter.

Isaiah 9:2-4

2  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.

3 You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil.

4 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.

I showed the original “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” cartoon to one of my ESL classes yesterday.  It’s one of my favorites although I failed to anticipate the difficulty in explaining words like “bizilbigs” and “fliffer bloofs”  While most Christmas cartoons today center around a mad rush to save Christmas, this classic reminds us that a celebration of Christmas is not a collection of things but an expression of gratitude, love and hope.

Like the Whos, there will be no whoboohoo bricks or pankunas on Christmas morning this year for Luke and me.  We’ll be celebrating alone on the 25th, amidst a culture that doesn’t celebrate the holidays until New Year’s Eve.  Like much of our experience here in Russia, everything seems so different than what we are used to and yet the important things are still the same.

God’s love has not changed.  His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ is still ours.  Our hope still rests in Him alone who has the power to create worlds and recreate our lives.  I’ll take that over roast beast any day of the year.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Wishing you a day filled with true gladness of heart for the life God has given us, now and eternally.

P.S.  You are welcome for not titling this one “The Reason for the Season”.  So tempting.

In A World of Pure Imagination

Faith, hope, & love.  These three easily recognizable Christian virtues from 1 Corinthians 13:13 are also widely valued as human characteristics that benefit ourselves and our society.   All 3 require an element of imaginative thinking.  To have faith, we must believe in a God bigger than ourselves and our own limited conceptions.  We hope in a future and eternity that we do not physically see, but must imagine.  We love others best when we imagine them as God sees them–immeasurably valued and worthy of glorification through Christ.

Imagination enriches our lives in many other ways too.  Getting lost in a book, dreaming up new businesses, playing make believe with a child.  But when imagination gets misplaced into the hands of an idealist, things get messy.

Idealism sounds nice but has some fairly nasty side effects.  At it’s essence, idealism is the practice of forming expectations about the way the world should operate, especially unrealistically (the dictionary’s words, not mine).  When we start projecting our idealism on a very real world, we set ourselves up for disappointment at best and destruction at worst.

My imaginative ideas about what makes the world better might not actually be good or wise.  Or even if I do happen to strike on a good vision of what the world ought to look like, the way I go about forcing my will on reality will probably hurt others in the process.

But what happened to our hope, our faith, and our love?  Don’t those require some idealism?

Not necessarily.  We need our imaginations to develop our virtues and we need optimism to live out those virtues in this often confusing and hard life.  But idealism and optimism are not the same thing.

The optimist is full of hope for the future whereas the idealist insists that the future fit their vision.  The optimist seeks ways to make the world a kinder place while the idealist works to make the world their kind of place.

Well-intentioned optimists can easily become dangerous idealists when imagination is misplaced.  Living in a country where I don’t speak the language has taught me that the hard way.  Things never go as planned and insisting on forcing my vision inevitably leads to frustration.  I’m slowly learning to redirect my imagination and view this world with optimism instead of idealism.  It’s a process for us perfectionists but I believe it’s worth it.


The last installment of my Misplaced series will hit the blog next week!  It’s about one of my favorite topics–budgeting and personal finance.  Thanks for following along so far!

401K vs. Faith

I’m writing this in my favorite corner of our love seat as I will myself to stay awake. I’m exhausted in the worse way, when sleep that brings dreams seems more tiring than simply sitting here staring into space.

It’s in these quiet mental moments that the thoughts from the back of my head finally get to percolate. So now I’m staring into a full mug of brain coffee and I’m trying to see if it’s any good. Here goes!

One of my passions in life is financial literacy. Right after God, my husband, and breakfast baked goods. I’ve been balancing my accounts since age 11 and budgeting since age 5. As I’ve learned more about economics and stewarding money well (and I have a loooong way to go), I’ve also run into a few roadblocks.

From friends, to articles, to the incredible auto-biography of George Muller, I’m constantly reminded of the importance of trusting God with one’s finances. We’ve all heard the stories of the mysterious checks that appear in people’s mailboxes just in the nick of time. These stories humble us and remind us of our ultimate dependence on God. And I believe all of this is very good.

But I also believe God has called us to be wise with our talents and treasure and that means saving for hard times, investing for the future, and living within one’s means.

Friends, I need your help. Have you ever felt like you had to choose between a 401(k) and your faith?What helped you balance complete dependence on God with wise planning?

Goodnight,
Chloe

P.S. Exciting new blog & business updates coming soon! Stay tuned.

Self-Suffocation

Thinking can be dangerously self-absorbed.  Of course, this depends entirely on what you are thinking of.  This morning, I woke, moved around, then laid on my bed to think.  Sometimes thoughts are enlightening, wonderful, and inspirational.  Other times, they are simply self-suffocating.  I keep thinking the same things over and over and the monotony threatens to kill any creativity I have left but my brain is set on repeat and I can’t stop.  I was in this stifling cycle this morning so I decided that going on a run would be helpful.

I have an odd malady where occasionally I will have shooting pains in my lungs and won’t be able to breathe.  If you know me personally, and I happen to freeze in the middle of a conversation or action, this is probably why.  It isn’t that much of a problem, I can usually resume breathing after a few moments and keep going.  Sadly, this morning, when I most needed to run away from myself, my lungs would not cooperate and I was forced into a fast walk.

I had been doing this run for a little bit, stop running to start breathing again, start walking, forget why I couldn’t run, start running, stop breathing, and so on for about an hour and had no less separated myself from my thoughts than when I was lying on my bed.  This made me very frustrated and I was on the verge of considering my run/walk a waste when a very well timed friend sent a text saying that they wanted to know the real me.

It then struck me.  God wants to know the real me too and is daunting as that may feel (the idea that the creator of the universe and savior of mankind cares at all about me), He already knows the real me.  All my efforts to sculpt my outward self into the person I wish I could be are pointless.  The fact that I was letting personal battles and distractions get in the way of being intimate with God who already knows all about my shortcomings and failures suddenly seemed quite foolish indeed.  If I must think myself in circles, then perhaps refocusing myself on living for God and Him alone could release me from this trap of thinking.