Saturday, December 28, 2013

Books 27, 28, and 29

Book 27: Drowning Ruth by Christina Schwartz
This book was really good. I almost didn't pick it up because the description says that it jumps around in time and place, and I didn't think I could keep up with that so close to the end of the semester. I started it anyway, and it turns out that it wasn't difficult to follow at all. It's advertised as a thriller, but I wouldn't go quite that far. It's suspenseful for sure, and definitely a page turner. I recommend it when you want a book you can kind of get lost in and finish quickly.

Book 28: Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
I loved this book. It's touching and heart wrenching and funny and sweet. The protagonist and narrator is a fourteen year old boy named Will Tweedy. The book jacket describes him as a cross between Huck Finn and Holden Caulfied, and I find this to be sweetly accurate. The story takes place in Cold Sassy, Georgia, where Will spends a great deal of time with his grandfather. In the beginning of the story, Will's grandmother dies, but not before his grandfather lovingly cares for her in an attempt to nurse her back to health. This section of the book is just so beautiful. A character emerges after the grandmother's death who I didn't like. I have a hard time enjoying books centered around characters I don't like, but this time it did not detract from the overall story. Cold Sassy Tree is a great Southern tale.

Book 29: Room by Emma Donoghue
Wow. Room is weird and strange and engrossing. It's narrated by five year old Jack who was born in a 12x12 room and has never left. He believes that Room, his mother, and her captor are all that exists in the world. And just when Room starts to make you feel claustrophobic, something happens to expand Jack's world. This is much more a thriller than Drowning Ruth. It's an incredible page turner unlike anything I've read before.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

One more reason God gave us Keaton (and Tucker as his sidekick)

It's Advent.

I love the Christmas season. We got married during the holidays partly because we love the peace and joy that comes with December and the celebration of Christ's birth.

But this year I haven't quite felt ready. I had a cold a couple of weeks ago that I killed with crazy home remedies and sheer will, but the darn thing showed up again as soon as I was out of school for Thanksgiving break. When I look at my calendar for next week and all of the times I'm booked back to back or even double booked, I can feel my blood pressure go up. I guess my focus over the Thanksgiving holiday has been getting well and getting ahead for work so I can keep all the balls in the air and not let myself get overwhelmed.

Then we had a Sunday school lesson this morning about how overly commercialized Christmas has become, and how we've allowed it to become stressful and all about stuff. Our challenge as we left class was to focus on the miracle of Christmas and to allow ourselves to be a vessel through which God can do miracles even today. To be willing to sacrifice our selfishness for that. But, honestly, I didn't leave there all fired up about Christmas. I left with a list in my head.

We came home and cleaned, the boys did homework, and we started getting out the Christmas decorations. We immediately remembered how full of joy Keaton Hickman is (when he's not mad, that is) because he was dancing and singing Christmas songs and offering to help and talking about how we needed to do things a certain way because "that's how we always do it." We were completing a task, and then Keaton stepped in and we were making memories as a family.

As each boy put out his nativity scene, Keaton wondered aloud why we didn't have advent candles at home like we do at church. "We should have those here," he said, "Then we could light them and say the prayer and everything together as a family." (I'm sure there was a little "and we could play with fire by lighting candles over and over again" in there, too.)

Tucker jumped on his idea immediately, and they began scouring the house for candles. "We need four small ones and one tall one," Tucker said. But they could only come up with a hodgepodge of four random candles made up of various shapes and sizes and colors. Finally, Trey told them we could probably pick up some candles the next time we go to the store.

It was getting late, and I needed to do our grocery shopping for the week. I decided to go to Michaels first because I needed a couple of more wreaths for the bare spot above my windows. While I was there, I picked up four votives, four votive holders, and a pretty sparkly silver candle for the boys' advent aspirations.

When I got home, they asked for the candles first thing. They placed the votives in the holders, Trey found a platter and a wreath, and we set up our very own advent candle arrangement in the middle of the dining table. Tucker pulled up the reading that goes with the first candle on two ipads so that he and Keaton could each do a part. Keaton made up some rules about how each of us would get a turn being in charge of the week's candle, but when it's your turn you can choose an assistant to help you if you want. Then he announced he would go first (it was his idea, after all), and named Tucker his assistant.

Then this happened.

Keaton read to us about how the first candle of advent symbolizes hope.

"All the promises of God are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He is our hope, today and forever!"

Then he said (I'm not making this up), "Let us pray."

And Tucker read an advent prayer about the hope we find in Christ. 

Trey and I just kind of sat there, stunned, until finally I dried my eyes enough to hug both boys and tell them how proud they make me. The whole thing was beautiful. I will never in my life forget it. 

People, it was our very own little miracle of Christmas, brought to us by the not-so-little-anymore Hickmans. 

Our tree isn't finished and my calendar still looks impossible, but I think I'm ready for the holidays now.