Tag Archives: Christmas

December Wows

Each month I keep a running list of wow moments on my phone.  This month I checked my list to start writing “December Wows” and the list began with “peed my pants.”  Here was my thought process after reading that bullet point:

Peed my pants?  What the heck?  I didn’t pee my pants this month.

Or did I…?

No, surely I would remember that.

Maybe somebody else peed.

Then why would you write “my pants”?

Good point.  Maybe it wasn’t a bad pee.  Maybe it was more of a squirt and less of a “fill-your-socks” kind of pee.

But when would that have happened?

Come on, Katie.  Think!  Did something super funny happen this month?

Not that I can recall.  Nothing that would make me lose control of my bladder.

Are you sure?

No.  I’m really not.  And now I’m really getting mad at the aging process because not only do I pee myself, I can’t even remember doing it!

A few days later I remembered what had happened.  It’s a long story and it’s not that interesting, but yes, I did pee.  And no, it did not fill my socks.

My friend Lesley introduced me to two wow-wonderful treats this month:

I hate to brag, but I ate over 2,000 calories worth of those chocolates in one sitting.  And I love ordering a “winter dream chai latte” from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf because it is amazing and it makes me sound like an adult!  – said the girl who only drank hot chocolate until this December.

Thanks for those holiday pounds, Les!  They were well earned!

I took the three rascals to “Christmas Blvd” at my church and it was incredible.  Living in southern California, we miss out on the cold weather, but we know how to pretend.

At church we were able to hang out in a fake forest with real Christmas trees:

sled down a fake mountain with real snow:

(isn’t his face awesome?)

and even walk through a fake snow storm with real wonder:

There were several moments during the night when I was reminded yet again why it’s a good thing I’m not yet a mother.  For starters, we got kicked off the playground which apparently was closed.  (I played dumb with the security officer but had known it was closed since it was pitch black.)

Later, I pacified a cranky Logan with this:

which ended up all over his clothes and in my hair.  Wonderful.

Then when we were making s’mores, I let Logan eat the marshmallow straight off the pointed skewer which had been in the fire.  A cute little old man ran over to stop him because he thought I hadn’t noticed.  I had.  I’m just not exactly “Miss Safety Aware.”

Case in point: one December day my projector in my class wasn’t working so I yanked out the cord and part of the plug got stuck in the outlet.  I told the tech lady (oxymoron?) so she could fix it, and after she fixed it she asked, “How did you get the broken part of the plug out of the outlet?”

Me: Oh I just pulled it out.

Her: With what?

Me: My hand.

Her: Katie?!?

Me: What?  I seriously didn’t know what the big deal was.

Her: You could have easily been electrocuted!

Me: Seriously?

Her: Yes!  People die that way!

Me: Whooops!  (I chose not to tell her that I actually had tried a second time to fix the plug and thus had to pull it out two times. Somehow I missed the “don’t put metal into outlets” lecture as a child.)

During spirit week this Christmas season, I wowed my fashion-conscious students by wearing the same green pants four days in a row:

My original goal was to wear them all five days of the week (because I like to set my goals high), but the butt got too saggy and I was too lazy to wash them.  And no one appreciates a saggy, green butt.

My family wowed everyone in Kimmi’s restaurant when we surprised our mom with a graduation party.  We do tend to make a bit of a scene when all 14 of us go out to eat.  One man asked me if we were mormons.

My mom had finished her BS in nursing (even though she’s been a nurse for 34 years), so we celebrated her with omelets and these signs:

Other signs read:

Our mom is too legit to quit. (She didn’t get the reference.)

“Just did it.”  – Nike (their dog)

Our mom’s da bomb.

and my personal favorite:

Our mom is greater.  Our mom is stronger. Mom, you are smarter than any other. (I’m banking on God having a good sense of humor.)

Speaking of humor in church, check out THIS BLOG POST from “Stuff Christians Like.”  It has a bulletin used by a Catholic church that is pretty awesome.

I was introduced to two new blogs this month which I highly recommend.  For all the single ladies, CHECK OUT THIS BLOG written by single women for single women.   Super encouraging.  Thanks for introducing me to it, Karin!

And for all the married moms, you can thank my friend Christy for introducing me to THIS HILARIOUS BLOG.  It’s one of the few mom blogs that enjoy because she is so stinking funny.

Christmas break has held several wow moments.  I didn’t go anywhere special but I had lots of family time and watched some GREAT tv.  I confess that a major highlight this break was watching the moment between Mary and Matthew at the end of Downton Abbey season two.  It was downright magical.

My brother introduced me to the show Go On, so one day I watched 6 straight episodes and didn’t get out of my pjs until two.

My dad’s brother and his family of six from the Philippines stayed with my parents for the break, making for some wonderful wowness.  We played lots of Dutch Blitz and Up and Down the River, but my favorite moments came while playing Celebrity.  It was hilarious watching the older folks try to describe “Bon Iver” and “One Direction.”  Likewise, we struggled to describe “Mark Spitz” and “Carl Lewis.”  I thought he was “C.S. Lewis.”

When I wasn’t reading blogs or watching TV or playing cards, I was probably running.  My highlight this month was when I turned the corner from my house and stumbled upon this:

It was basically the Indian rose parade!

Yes, there were small children dressed as peacocks and yes I was the only white person around.  Naturally I loved this moment.  If you want to see some wonderfully bizarre dancing in the streets of Little India (aka my neighborhood), WATCH THIS VIDEO.

The only other video I took this month was at Hudson’s Christmas Pageant where he was the “head angel” and had a speaking part.

 Heidi had no clue if he would get stage fright, but turns out that he rather enjoys the spotlight since he YELLED his lines into the microphone.  If you’re curious, HERE HE IS, but if you’re not family, you’ll probably think it’s boring.

This month I received several wow-inducing e-mails and text messages.  Here’s a snippet from my favorite e-mail from a friend who shall remain anonymous:

Anonymous friend, you’re the best.

This text came from my sister-in-law and made me laugh at the absurdity of it:

Someone had accidentally tagged me in a post on Facebook, and the thought of me dancing away at a nightclub in San Diego was quite comical- especially since I had actually been doing homework in my sweats all day.  I didn’t remove the tag so people might think I’m cooler than I am.

This next wow text arrived in the middle of the night:

Three pushes and Walker joined the world.

I love having friends like Megan who send me texts like that one and gifts like this one:

I know what you must be thinking.  But believe it or not, I actually don’t pee my pants on a regular basis.  This was pure coincidence.  Thanks again, Megan!

The final wow text was a heavy one.  Actually, it was the scariest text I have ever received.  It came from my sister, the person closest to me in the world, and arrived the day after the Sandy Hook shooting.

Two days in a row I hit my knees and cried out in desperation.

Thankfully, this time no one was hurt.  A homeless man had shot off 50 rounds into the air in the mall parking lot.  He probably had never even heard of Sandy Hook, and no idea the pandemonium he created in the mall.  Heidi was later able to laugh about the incident and recount how an Asian woman decked out in Coach attire screamed, “Tsunami!!!” as she raced out the door.

Sandy Hook obviously weighed heavy on everyone’s hearts during December.  My pastor was preaching on Luke 2 the next Sunday and did an incredible job explaining why the Christmas story is so important- especially after events like the one that had happened Friday.  Here were some of the lines I found powerful concerning his last main point that the good news brought JOY to the world, right when everything was falling apart:

* One of the juxtapositions of the Christian life is that even in the face of what happened Friday, we still sing “Joy to the World.”

* A baby in a manger changes everything. It’s good news of great joy EVEN in the midst of darkness.

* Our Jesus came in the midst of human tragedy and we can see His fingerprints in the midst of our tragedy.

* Joy is based on the knowledge of the presence of God-with-us at all times from the very beginning.

* The only condition for joy is the presence of God.

* In some crazy way, joy and suffering fit together.

* Sorrow hollows us out so we can be filled.

* The Christmas story means that human history is going somewhere.  So we grieve but not as those who have no hope.  Because we are waiting for Jesus to come and put the world back together.

Yes, I was scribbling like a madwoman during the sermon and had 5 pages of notes by the end.  I’m weird like that.

He ended the sermon with a personal story of a time he dealt with depression.  A friend came over and told him at least 30 times, “It’s not always going to be like this.”  Those words rang out over and over again in the sanctuary:

“It’s not ALWAYS going to be like this.”

“It’s NOT always going to be like this.”

“It’s not always going to be like THIS.”

That truth brought such comfort after Sandy Hook, and for anyone stuck in a situation they long to be out of.  The sermon is called JOY IN THE MIDST OF DESPAIR and can be found by clicking the link and then going to the 12/16 sermon.  He begins by explaining who the shepherds actually were (fascinating stuff that I had never heard!), but if you want to skip to the part where he talks about joy in the midst of despair, that starts at minute 25.

Rather than end on a heavy thought, I’ve saved the Christmas day wow moments for the end.

My thoughtful Aunt Robin had APU basketball uniforms made for the boys:

And Hudson insisted on wearing his super short shorts the entire day:

There was the usual chaos/awesomeness of gift-opening:

Then the girls stood outside and watched:

(missed you, Em!)

as the boys played with their new toys:

He’s a bike cop now!  (kidding)

Heidi and I tried to work off all the candy in our stockings by going for a run:

And in the afternoon, my dad, uncle, 2 cousins, sister-in-law and I went to the park and played full court 3-on-3.  I had to guard my 16 year old cousin TJ.  He was way too fast for me so I tried to slow him down by kicking him in the shins and blowing snot rockets on him.  Still didn’t work.

Vander wowed us with one of this favorite presents, fake teeth:

And Teri wowed us with her ability to fall asleep anywhere and any time:

But she learned her lesson.  If you fall asleep at the Hardeman’s, you WILL be on Instagram and you MIGHT have this happen:

 Who wouldn’t want a 112 pound dog to sit on their face?

Hope your December was full of lots of wows (of the good variety).

Here’s to 2013 being a year full of wows (of the great variety)!

Christmas Surprises

Christmas as a child is full of surprises.  That’s why it’s so fun watching kids open presents.  Their reactions are never fake or forced.  If they love a present, genuine joy spreads across their face.  Like here, when Heidi opened a Barbie car:

And if a child is disappointed by a gift, an instant scowl or look of disinterest appears.

Like the year my brother Trent opened up an expired Lunchable.  He didn’t find it nearly as funny as my dad did.  Nor did he laugh the next year when he opened a box of rocks.  And the year he didn’t give my mom a list so she surprised him with karate lessons when he really wanted roller blades?  Well let’s just say that ever since then we’ve given her very detailed Christmas lists.

I always loved being surprised on Christmas morning.  It was so hard to fall asleep on Christmas Eve because just thinking about the surprise presents soon to be under the tree made me giddy with excitement.

I didn’t expect to receive the gifts on my list like I often do as an adult.  As a child, I simply hoped for things and was still shocked when I got them.  And then there were always other surprise gifts I didn’t even know I wanted.  Like the giant chalkboard I unwrapped one year after my parents had noticed how often I played pretend teacher.

The anticipation of presents and surprises woke us up before the sun rose, and we’d race down the stairs to look in wonder at all the wrapped gifts delivered late in the night.  I think it’s those surprises on Christmas morning that make the 25th so magical as a child.

We don’t get many surprises on Christmas morning any more.  Sure, we’re surprised by the type of candy in our stockings and the style of pjs we open on Christmas Eve, but we usually know exactly what we’ll open Christmas morning.  I had already tried on the running shoes my sister got for me this year. And I knew precisely what my parents got for me since I only had one thing on my list.  And though I love my new Newton running shoes and my Vitamix, I can’t help but miss the wonder of surprise that comes with Christmas as a child.

However, this Christmas season I learned about one of the greatest surprises of all time.

I learned in my seminary class that there was never a prophecy about the Messiah coming from a virgin.

I know. I was shocked too.

In fact, I raised my hand in class and said, “Dr. Way, you’re telling me that there was never ANY prophecy about the virgin birth?  It was a total surprise?”

He assured me that it was and said, “Absolutely no one expected the Messiah to come from a virgin.  It was a bonus.”

My mind raced as it tried to wrap around this idea.  I had always believed that Isaiah had foretold the virgin birth and the Jews had simply misunderstood Isaiah 7:14 just as they misunderstood what kind of Messiah Jesus would be.  So to learn that it was actually I who had misunderstood the verse was more than a little disconcerting.  However, as Dr. Way continued in his lecture, he explained how the verse should actually be read and how it actually reveals an even greater God.

Nerd alert: I’m about to throw a bunch of bible nerdiness on this post.  I find this stuff uber interesting, but realize that not everyone will.  Feel free to skim to the end of this rant if I start to bore you.  No offense taken.

Okay, so in every Evangelical bible Isaiah 7:14 reads something like this:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

But there are several things wrong with this English translation.  First, the verb tense is wrong.  In Hebrew it doesn’t read “shall conceive” as in the future, but rather, it indicates that the woman had already conceived but not yet given birth.  This was huge because Isaiah was referring to a woman who was already pregnant.  In fact, most OT scholars believe this was a woman in the king’s harem whom the original audience would have known.

Therefore, this prophecy that we always assume is about Jesus, was actually about a child named Immanuel who had been born long before Jesus came to earth.

Next, the “sign” that Isaiah mentions was not referring to a miraculous birth.  It was totally normal that a pregnant woman would give birth.  But the sign would be the fact that in a few months, a child would be born and God would once again be with Israel and judge the nations; hence the meaning of his name: Immanuel= God with us.

Here’s the crazy part.

Isaiah didn’t actually use the word “virgin.”  I know.  For the record, I fully believe that Mary was a virgin.  I’m not contesting the virgin birth.

Isaiah used the word “alma” which means young woman- some almas were virgins and others were not, just as some fiances are virgins and others are not.  John H. Walton wrote THIS ARTICLE in 1987 in which he convinced most OT scholars and even the Bible translating committee that “alma” should not be translated as “virgin.” However, the publishers wouldn’t change the translation to say “young woman” because they knew the controversy it would create.  Instead, they added a footnote which indicates that “virgin” can also be translated “young woman.”

If you’re a bible nerd like me, you’ll be fascinated by Walton’s article and this summary:

But even if you’re not a Bible nerd, I think you’ll appreciate the fact that Walton proves that nobody expected a virgin birth.  Not even Isaiah.

When Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14, he wasn’t saying that  prophecy was being fulfilled through the virgin birth.  Matthew often used OT scriptures to make a point, and knowing the OT scriptures much better than us, Matthew knew that this boy named “Immanuel” had already been born.

So when he writes that, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel'” (Matt 1:22), he was using a teaching strategy the Jews accepted.  He was applying a prophecy that already been fulfilled to make a point that God was with them again- just as he was back in Isaiah’s time.

Mary named her son Jesus, not Immanuel, because the angel instructed her to and because Isaiah’s prophecy wasn’t about Jesus.  Matthew simply points out an interesting connection to the OT passage and uses it to illustrate that when Jesus was born, God was with us again.

Bible nerd rant over.

Maybe you buy this and maybe you don’t.  I realize that I’m not exactly a bible scholar.  I’m a girl who reads US Weekly and almost electrocuted herself last week.  But the Old Testament scholars I respect the most, the ultra bible dorks who study the bible for a living, all agree that NO ONE expected a virgin birth.

It was a total surprise.

And I think it says something awesome about our God.

He is a God of surprises.

A God who continually surpasses our expectations.

A God who fulfills His promises in ways far better than we can imagine.

So when He promised a Messiah, the Jews didn’t realize how great this Messiah would be.  They didn’t realize he would come from a virgin and be God himself in human flesh.

What a crazy surprise!

And when God promises to “meet all our needs” (Phil 4:19), and give you “the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4), He often surprises us in the way He does this.  I’ve certainly seen this in my own life.

Last year at this time, I thought for sure God would meet my needs and give me the desires of my heart by providing a job in Chile or Panama or Nicaragua.  And if not that, then I’d stay here and God would provide a husband.  Or even just a boyfriend.

But He didn’t.

Instead, I’m still in America, still living in the same house with my cat still sleeping on my chest, even though my uncle warned me that I could get a parasite that will make me suicidal if she sleeps near my face.

And you know what?  Life is wonderful.

My needs are met.

I’ve been given many of the desires of my heart.

And I get to live in a place of hopeful anticipation, waiting for God to surprise me again.

Because He’s proven Himself to be a good God.  A God who hears our prayers, knows our needs and desires, and chooses to surprise us with the ways He answers our prayers and meets our needs.

Instead of giving His people a mighty human king to overthrow Rome, He shocked the world and gave us His own son, born of a virgin, to overthrow death.

Instead of giving us what we think we need and desire, He continually surprises us by giving us what He knows we need and what we should desire.

So if you weren’t surprised at all this Christmas season, if like me, you got exactly what you asked for, I hope that you can rejoice in the fact that God will surprise you this year.  He won’t give us exactly what we ask for because we often ask for the wrong things.  But He will give us good gifts because He is a loving Father who loves to bless and surprise us.

Would you join with me in asking God to surprise you this year?  Let’s raise our expectations and our hopes in this God who delivers wonderful surprises.