"We have come from God," Tolkien argued, "and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour" - Tolkien: Man & Myth by Joseph Pearce

Monday, November 29, 2010

Twinkle Lights

It is officially and wonderfully Christmas time, everyone! This is my favourite time in the whole year. I love the music (the good music, not just the constant flow of radio Christmas songs), the decorations, the gatherings... And I can barely type for staring at the twinkle lights on our humble little tree!

There is something about twinkle lights. They are like very small bits of happiness- or maybe they just remind you of happiness. Each little lamp seems confident in its own bit of light, assured of all that is hopeful. One light does not compare itself to its neighbors, but does its own shining and twinkling in a bold though silent sort of celebration. That's how I feel about twinkle lights. Perhaps my feelings partially depend upon the fact that when I was a child, I pretended they were fairies hiding in my Christmas tree (what little girl does not delight in the idea of lovely small ladies with sparkly wings and gowns?). Squinting a little bit, it was as though I could see a vague outline of them, winking mysteriously at me from across the room. (This effect was especially good when the lights were different colors- which made it rather like Fantasia.)

Maybe it is a little unorthodox to perceive so much depth in something common like twinkle lights. After all, they are plastic and in actual fact, quite faulty. But even though abstract ideas about the simple and the tangible can stretch the truth, I think they often help reach toward the truth as well. In this case, at least, I feel this way.

On Sunday, Paul preached about Christmas. Sort of. His theme for this series on advent is "Not what we expect but everything we need." He built the message on the text in Isaiah 9:1-7 in which the author says, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." Lights make up such a huge part of the Christmas season, whether they decorate a house or a window display or a tree. Yet Christians remember the light of Christ, a light which is the centerpiece of our lives, not merely an ornament or decoration.

Though I have learned that before, Paul articulated a truth about Christmas which I have never quite formed in my mind, but which resonated deeply in me. First, he talked about how the first part of advent is focusing on the waiting, the anticipation, of a Savior. We have all waited our whole lives to be completed, to be made whole, and Jesus is God's plan to bring wholeness to our brokenness, light to our darkness. Yet we don't like to wait. During the Christmas season, though we wait until Christmas day to open presents, we "gorge ourselves on the holiday". That is so true. Ryan pointed out a couple weeks ago that Christmas decorations were out in our Walmart the DAY after Halloween!!! That's ridiculous! And who really remembers Thanksgiving when all their energies are channeled into waiting desperately outside a store the for hours on Black Friday, rushing around attempting to find the best deals first.

It's a frenzy, and some times the whole month of December is like that. What about the mystery? What about the wonder of God? Where is the hush that falls over a groaning creation when it is reminded of good news- tidings of comfort and joy? Paul compared the frenzy, the gorging, to driving on the road when the sun is so bright you can see almost nothing else. That is what Christmas becomes- not the real Christmas- but the frenzy, the desperation, the eating of sweets and the guilt that follows, the plastic, the office parties, the tense family get-togethers, the shopping, the debt, and then... the let-down. Who feels comforted when they are in the midst of such pouring out and filling up? No wonder people are depressed after the holidays.

And if the only lights you see are the baubles, the bargains, and the bright gaudy acoutrements of a season gone berserk, then of course you will miss the small light in the stable- you will miss Bethlehem, and you will miss the comfort and the joy. "If you expect merely what you've always had, you'll get it; if you expect the Christmas you've always known, that is what will come." This different kind of Christmas that Paul reminded us of, is what we need. We are the "Christmas people"; we are the bringers (or at least the spreaders) of Good News. I pray that this will fill you up this season, that you will feast on hope and joy- on the gifts of the Lord, and that you will remember what you are really waiting for.

"For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." (Luke 2:30-32 NIV)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Belated Post

[Though I'm just now posting this, it's actually from last month.]

Music. Lots of music. Okay some music. A handful really... That's what's been occupying my mind for the past--- couple of weeks? I think so, yes. Firstly, I finally sought out and purchased the live version of Imogen Heap's "Just for Now" on iTunes, which just makes me happy and makes me think of "The Holiday" (which I also love). So that's first...

Secondly, I have recently (aka in the last month) been introduced to Mumford and Sons. They are well known in the UK and apparently everyone over here is just now getting into them. Or at least, now it is possible to not be cool if you haven't heard of them. Well, I have, and now I am not only cool but I own their "Sigh No More" album. I haven't even listened to it all yet- mostly "The Cave" and "Winterwinds" because I heard them first and they are wonderful. They are very ballad-ish sorts who play melancholy and bittersweet, hopeful and hindsightful- and they play all of them boldly.

Thirdly, I just bought the newest Brooke Fraser album, "Flags", on iTunes. Fraser consistently leaves me speechless and yearning- or she reminds me that I was yearning to begin with. Yearning to write songs that say as much as hers do. And the yearning for that reminds me of the yearning I have for so much that is silly, so much that is selfish, knowing that if I got those things, I would be yearning for something else. It's because I'm really yearning for the wholeness of the Lord- for His plan to come to fruition. But I still want to write some good songs if possible.

Speaking of singing, last weekend I got to perform at the coffee shop where I work! I have never performed my own songs in public (I don't count college as public). Unfortunately, I was on the clock, which meant I was running around waiting on table after table because the entire state visited the shop that day! There were other performers as well, including my friend, Erin Aubrey, whose CD art I did- she did a great job. Also, my boss's sister's group performed, which was lovely. It was a blessing that I got the chance to sing because my in-laws were in town, as well as a handful of my good friends from college who were back in town. (Both the in-laws and the friends were in town for Milligan's homecoming...) So they got to hear, but sadly, I think I inconvenienced all of my coworkers because no one had time to pick up my slack while I performed. No lasting damage was done- oh! wait. I take it back. When I had finished singing, I naturally went back to work, and picked up a dirty plate to take to the dish pile. Well, dish piles- we were so busy that it was overflowing! So, I set the plate ever so carefully on top of one such pile, only to watch it teeter- totter- then decide to topple over, hit the stove, and then shatter into a million pieces all over the floor! In front of my boss, coworkers, and 30 customers at the counter!! I was already exhausted from a crazy week that I just wanted to sit on the floor and cry. But- miraculously- I kept it together. We cleaned up the mess, but MAN that was a crazy day.

Even though Ryan and I both were exhausted and rather drained emotionally, we loved having our in-laws- who in fact decreased our stress!- stay at our apartment. I also enjoyed seeing my girls from out-of-town a lot.

And other things have happened, but all I can think about is now...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Changing of Seasons

Today was the First Day of Fall. I'm saying, everyone should be excited about that!!!! I'm so excited for autumn- for cardigans and cozy evenings, for bonfires and bright leaves, for caramel-appley-ness and breezes filled with spices, for candles that make everything glowy and just beacon you to sit near and read for hours... And as I feel everything around me breathe in deep and hold it- anticipating the change that's about to take place, I breathe right along with all creation, anticipating the adventure of the coming months!

I know for a fact that they will be adventuresome, because there is a big change- a big decision- that Ryan and I recently made. I can't elaborate yet, (not that there is too much danger if I did- this blog isn't exactly nationwide or anything) but I will say that I am as ready for this as I am for the leaves to paint themselves gold and red and fiery orange! The Lord is blessing us; we feel it every day. I am so blessed just to be married to Ryan! He's incredible!

For example, last week the owners of Coffee Company- John and Lisa Bunn- went on vacation for a week. This meant that everyone worked a LOT and Beth, who acts as a sort of second-in-command, was quite occupied. Though I really have enjoyed work there so far, I have to say that it was a very tiring week. It was so tiring that I felt that the only logical response, as sometimes happens when I'm very tired and miscommunication and other vexations have had their way, was to curl up on our bed with the Kleenexes and cry my eyes out into Ryan's shoulder. (A milder version of this can happen when I just have not cried for a while... or when I just need some sleep.)

Interesting as my emotional trajectory is, we shall soldier on to other- very possibly- more interesting, and certainly more important, topics. Ryan read me a section out of Deuteronomy the other day, and it was awesome. I know- Deuteronomy? Are you sure it wasn't Romans or something? No, really. Moses is speaking to Israel, and the words are so relevant that I felt speechless after Ryan finished reading them. We found ourselves wishing a lot of people would read it, too; sometimes people would greatly benefit from realizing that life and goodness are a choice- as is death and destruction. So, here is that passage, and may you be wowed by its awesomeness and astounding truth:

Deuteronomy 30:11-20

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

Sometimes we forget that heaven and earth are witnesses to our choices. People are always watching us. Did you know that you are a leader? I don't care who you are or what you do, you are a leader. That means you have a responsibility- to set an example for the believers, just as Paul tells Timothy. What you choose determines what life you live. Choose the Lord, that you might live- really live. Choose Him, not so that you will merely receive good things, but because to be in community with the Father, with Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, can only be blessing.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mountains and Misfits

Alright. The youth group kids aren't really misfits... mostly. And who doesn't love a good alliteration? (It sounds almost like a chapter in a Harry Potter book!) :) Okay. So, we had the kids over for a movie night last night, which was super fun. And thankfully, the house was relatively in order since we'd had a guest this week (more later), so I didn't have to do much to get ready. In spite of this fact, I- for some unknown reason- waited until an hour prior to everyone's ETA to prepare the two food items I needed. Ridiculous, really. One was chocolate chip cookies, and the other was fancy-pantsy-Harry-&-David-just-add-cream-cheese-sour-cream-and-shredded-cheese dip which my lovely mother-in-law brought us when she and pa-in-law visited. (And I'm not kidding when I say "lovely" everyone... my sympathy for you newly-wed lasses without lovely mothers-in-law.)

Sadly, what should have been easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy became an event, because I was in concentration mode. Let me explain. My friend, E, is recording a CD (I could probably say her name, but just in case you know...) of original songs and she asked me to do the album art for it! So, yes I am SUPER excited to be working on it. However, when the time came (a.k.a. late o'clock) to start making the aforementioned would-be easy food items for the movie night, I had been honed in on the album-art-creating for about 2 hours. I think I maybe did not quite disengage my brain from that. Thus, with the frantic scrambling to get things ready along with my growing anticipation of the festivities, Just-Add-This-n-That Dip became a very complicated and high maintenance entree to my overly-focused brain. Poor brain.

And does anyone know how to make a 1/2 cup from 8 oz. of a block of cream cheese? I guessed 4 oz. at first, but that only made for a paltry amount of dip, so I just put it all in. With this sort of thing, I think it does not matter much how much of the other ingredients you put in- I mean, whoever heard of more cream cheese being a bad thing?

Anyway, dip and cookies turned out fine, to the joy of my fried brain cells, and the movie night was a smash! We watched 2 movies: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Fantastic Mr. Fox, the latter of which was filmed entirely in stop motion (AMAZING). I must say, I think Cloudy is funniest film I've seen recently! Loved Mr. T! "You a tom fool!" baaaahhh.... good times.

As I said earlier, we had a guest with us for the majority of this week. My dear friend Brookie came to visit! It all happened rather quickly, and it's a wonderful story. Apparently, in the last month or so, she has had a Waking Up of sorts in regard to life and the fact that one usually does something with it. The initial part of this was that she realized church had always been comfortable- but that had basically been the extent of it. Comfort. Something that was a consistent part of life that her parents took her to. But recently, she realized it ought to be more than that. Shouldn't being a Christ-follower actually mean one is- well- following? It involves movement, which no one can do for you. Thus, she was filled with a desire to make her faith her own, to ask big questions, and she came to understand that one huge key in loving the Lord and being His follower is faith- being okay with not knowing all of the answers.

Then, Brooke found that every minute of every day was occupied over and over by three words: Johnson Bible College. She had no idea why. She didn't even know were it was. (Although, she told me she thought it was in Michigan... it's funny if you're a PK and know about places like Johnson to hear such a remark.) Anyway, she had a couple of run-ins with people from Johnson- really awesome people who loved it there and really encouraged her. And she thought maybe God was tapping her on the shoulder. I thought He was probably dancing around her banging a pan with a spoon shouting it... :) Just kidding. (Though He's probably doing that with me about something and I have no clue. If someone does- let me know.)

SO, long story fractionally shorter, we told Brookie we'd LOVE to have her come stay with us and we'd drive her over to JBC one day since it's close-ish to us. She flew in on Sunday afternoon, and stayed until Thursday afternoon. First of all, my voice is actually tired from laughing so much and talking! Secondly, we visited JBC on Monday. It was a spontaneous sort of thing, no appointment. So, it was an interesting visit... You should ask her about it, someday. But it was good, in spite of the awkward-college-visit-ness of it, and Ryan and I are both hoping greatly that God holds the door open for her to come this semester!!! It's amazing how He has been working in her life, and I'm SO excited that we got to help a little.

While she was here, we did crucial things, too, like watching a lot of Scrubs, singing/playing songs on the piano, almost singing/playing songs on the guitar (we're both learning), and watching youtubes of new indie artists whose lyrics we don't quite understand but think the way they play the banjo with a violin bow so it sounds like fairy bagpipes- is cool. Also, we have the song "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry stuck in our heads (Ryan was even whistling it the other day). :) It was so delightfully fun I'm pretty sure she NEEDS to live closer...

Oh, and Brooke LOVES mountains. And outside. I mean, REALLY loves them. So, on Wednesday, Ryan drove the three of us up the mountain and we went on a hike. That was after we went to our fav coffee shop- which of course meant that I was "cute" and not exactly dressed for hiking... but it was fun! And I could tell Brooke was totally in her element... when I could see her, that is. More than once I had to choke out the words "Brooooke.... waaaait..." If Brooke made her way through the woods like a gazelle, Ryan and I were more like rolly-pollies... But it was beautiful. :)

Anyway, I think I speak for both us Allcotts when I say it's been an eventful week! But loverly. Ryan is such a wonderful man. I can't even tell you. Thank you Lord! And hopefully I'll be able to play G, C, D, and Emin better on the guitar the next time I write...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stories and the Last Two Weeks

It has been a bit longer than I intended, but it has been a very busy couple of week! This past week, Ryan and I took some of the youth group to CiY. It was an awesome week, even though and especially because we only had 3 kids. I found that though I was not a high-schooler, I was immensely blessed and challenged by the week. I think they are getting better and better- challenging the students (and sponsors!) in more striking and memorable ways. Each day had a theme: Grace, Doctrine, Godliness, Influence, and Endurance.

Last Monday was Ryan's and my 1 month anniversary! We joked about it being a great 1 month gift to come to CiY and spend the week living apart in dorm rooms with teenagers. :) But really, we loved being with the kids. I had never acted in the role of sponsor, and I could not have imagined the types of struggles I experienced that week- trying to offer wisdom, while being gentle, while exemplifying Christ, and many other things to those kids. Thank the Lord that Ryan was with me! He was so encouraging when I struggled, and- fantastic husband that he is- made time for our daily devotion every day of CiY! We've been going through the Love Dare devo book for newlyweds that has a devotion per day for the first year of marriage. They are short and sweet, but they have been so great for us and I would absolutely recommend them to other newlyweds- or even couples who've been together a few years! Anyway, it was pretty ironic some of the topics of those devos last week because I really really needed to hear them. Ryan only had to read the title of one and he just looked at me. Wow. God knows what you need.

Also, Aaron Pelsue's band led worship... Unfortunately, he has not learned that skinny jeans are not for boys, let alone 35-year-old men!! :) Okay, but other than that, his band does a great job. And he and his wife have THE MOST beautiful baby girl from Africa...

It's really been such a full couple of weeks it is difficult to remember all of the thoughts I've wanted to articulate here. But I did finally finish Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke about a week and a half-ish ago. It was a great book! She has such epic characters- and a lot of them! I think Dustfinger is still my favourite. Seriously, he's awesome. But all three books- Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath- are beautifully written. Their themes are very interesting, too. I love when multiple themes weave through a story and you just soak it up- and then have this huge AHA! moment when they all come together!

Speaking of beautiful stories, I must confess- I am rereading all of the Harry Potter books AGAIN. As is Ryan. What with the 7th movie coming out in November and next summer... it seemed very proper. But you know, there's another reason why I felt compelled to immerse myself in the story once again. I have read them so much and love them so that they feel rather like home now. Thus, I thought since I am here, beginning a new home with Ryan I would read these books, this story which makes for such a cozy corner in my heart.

From cupboard to four-poster to forest to flying, I am taken to a beautiful place where a war is raging- and the good and the beautiful still conquers the dark, the destructive. And, like Tolkien and his "True Myths," the stories are real. Not real in that they may be documented as historical happenings, but real in the same way that Narnia and Middle Earth are real. The characters are real, and they are beautiful- though they are not extraordinary any more than you and I are (and we are). I think the fact that they are ordinary but willing to be more than they are makes them extraordinary.

And I think we can be, too. If God were sitting in the other seat at the table at Barnes & Noble when we have excited conversations about this beautiful aspect of the story, He would start jumping up and down and cry, "That is exactly what I've been trying to tell you!" If we could, we would see that He is already writing a story much more beautiful, and infinitely more real- and I think we don't realize that He wants it for us more than we even want it. Although, if the veil were drawn back and we could see Things as they really are, we would jump up and down, too, at the prospect of what lies before us. And I'm not saying a thing that hasn't been said a zillion times before! But sometimes people, without realizing it, reveal their yearning to be more than they are. Harry Potter is one example: the story itself, Rowling's characters and themes which reveal her own heart, the masses of people thronging to the book stores and movie theatres gobbling up as much of the story as they can, donning robes and red and gold scarves and glasses in exchange for their dull, daily identities, and even those who don't like the story at all! (Speaking of which, I don't believe people who say they dislike fantasy stories- even if all they read is the news and biographies and textbooks, they still yearn for the story, they just want what's 'real' supposedly. 'Codswallop' as Hagrid says.)

Sometimes these stories create such a deep ache, like a hole in your heart half filled with joy and half with a 'terrible sadness' as Rowling says describing Harry's feeling as he gazes into the Mirror of Erised. How can it be slaked? No amount of reasoning or even rereading can ever completely mollify it. The only satisfaction I have had is in the Lord, knowing that our story isn't done, and when it is, all that will be left to do is to go "Further up and farther in!" No, Harry Potter does not exemplify the single most amazing piece of literature ever written, but it rises to the top of a very large pile of stories that, regardless of their different themes and words, are all part of the same Language, they all ultimately ask the same question. I pray, as you ask it, the roar of the Lion would be your answer, in the sound His Name the promise of unreached shores.

Friday, July 9, 2010

I am now- a Blogger.

So, here I am. "Blogging." I have often thought that devoted bloggers must be somewhat ridiculous. I mean, in our culture, it is not uncommon for someone to rush to their computer and tweet if so much as a dust mote floats by! Are we that starved of meaning? Maybe we are tiring of the mush we've been fed since childhood of "Follow your heart" because when we try to follow our hearts, we find ourselves lost in a very dark wood with no knowledge of where we've come from, where we're going, and certainly no idea how to get out of it.

So blogging. I have been suspicious of it, and at times had my suspicions confirmed. However, it has also proved itself a useful tool for some, or provided a place for people to share their hearts, or helped some achieve goals (yes, I watched Julie and Julia). So, maybe I'll try it! I don't promise to say anything new or eloquent, though of the latter I will say that my senior year high school English teacher, Mrs. Fields, flat out told me already that I am not eloquent. So, no complaints! You've been warned. [Ah! A dust moat just floated by and it reminded me of how small we are and the condition of humanity!]

Moving on...

In the "About Me" blurb, I wrote that I am newly married. And oh, how wonderful is my husband! He has started his own blog to help him read one ministry-related book a week this summer so that we don't just watch seasons of Stargate or Castle or Psyche or Chuck... (you can check out his blog at ryanallcott.blogspot.com!) And it has inspired me to take advantage of this beginning time of being married- when I have (at least right now) a surprising amount of free time- to pursue those things God has wired me to love to do. Things like writing songs and stories (and really develop my ideas), drawing, painting, writing letters (real ones), singing, and of course- reading! And I don't want to be afraid of doing those things just because I might make a mistake. I don't want to be "safe" or keep my pride in check; I want to let it go- in fact, I want to pour contempt on it! And I want to boldly pursue the One who does infinitely more with my 10% than I can do with 100%.

So ready, set, go! I am ready to dig past my "paint-by-number fantasies" and discover what's real. Because "I've heard rumours of a True Reality; whispers of a well-lit way" and I want to follow the Lion further up and further in-and go through the wardrobe.