11/25/14

Winter Survival Tips

It's snowing a lot, everyone.

And it's cold.

For some reason, even though they're covered in fur, cats seem to crave warmth even more than humans. Which is why I decided to observe my cat, Penelope (aka Penny Lopes aka Penny aka Muffin Top), to find out the best ways to keep warm this winter. And because I know you, World, need to stay warm, too, I've decided to share with you what I've observed.

Eh-heh-heh-hem.

The Top 10 Best Ways to Keep Warm This Winter (from Penelope):


1. Become one with fire. In cat world, giving someone your belly means giving him your trust. Here Penelope demonstrates relinquishing herself to the flame in hopes that fire will be her best ally this winter. She's a brave and crafty politician.


2. Use electric blankets. Leave just enough space for your nose holes to take in oxygen, but otherwise cover every possible exposed surface.


3. Cats like a little more booty to hold at night. What's warmer than another living creature? If you don't have a spouse to cuddle with, try a sibling or a household pet (but not a goldfish). Penelope often chooses my bum (as pictured here).


4. Use warm liquids. Here Penny has snuggled into the sink after I'd been running warm water. I usually choose to drink hot tea or coffee instead, but if you can fit into the sink and you find that that works for you, I will not judge you. Winter makes us do crazy things.


5. Work. Movement helps elevate your body temperature. Or, if you have a desk job, like Penelope does I guess, try usurping the heat from your computer by napping on its keyboard.


6. Use heating pads. Heating pads work best when you can snag one that somebody else was using but left behind to go to the bathroom. Here Penelope capitalized on her cute-and-fluffiness to retain what she'd stolen. (SHE'S SO FLUFFY.)


7. Treat every blanket like it's your blanket. If you pass up an opportunity to lie on a blanket, you might never see another blanket. Take every chance you get. That blanket is there for you.


8. Gift yo'self. If the cold becomes too unbearable, you can try giftbasketting yourself to someone in the south. Here Penelope lacked the proper postage to make it to Florida, so she took a nap.


9. Read a good book. Something about adventure or romance or comedy or mystery takes the edge off of winter and makes you feel all toasty inside. Penelope prefers to read the Bible, but sometimes she gets a little too toasty and takes a nap.


10. Enjoy the beauty. Yes, it's cold, but it is also lovely. Enjoy it from the warmth of your own kitchen basket if you can't work up the courage to go outside.

Happy winter, everyone!

11/7/14

Magnificat

My little niece Annabelle and I sat in her living room, playing with her new Legos. They were zoo Legos, with a monkey and a bird and a lion. I kept building flowers and putting them in different places in the zoo and she kept taking them apart and telling me that that's not where they go.

Well, at least she has vision.

After a few minutes of playing, Annabelle grabbed the empty Lego box and set it in front of her, sighing over the pictures of all the other Lego sets she didn't have. 

"I wish I had these," she said, resting her little chin on her little hand and scanning all the pictures with her big blue eyes.

"But you have these," I countered, building another illegal flower and sneaking it behind one of the zoo trees.

"I know," she said, still scanning jealously, "but I don't have these."

"Well some little girls don't have any of them--"

She looked up at me with wide eyes. 

"--so maybe we could be grateful for what we do have?"

She spotted my flower and plucked it from its spot (I thought I had hidden it so well!) and told me that she was trying to be nice and didn't want to hurt my feelings, but that's not where the flowers go.

I sat back as she reorganized her zoo and wondered why we all can't just be thankful for what we have.

When I think about being thankful, my mind automatically meanders through all of the ways I've been told to cultivate thankfulness throughout the years. Like taking 15-minute prayer walks every day to tell God what you're thankful for, or making lists every day of the things you're thankful for, or reading that book 1,000 Gifts where the author sounds very poetic but in the end I don't really understand half the stuff she's talking about.

Recently I have been thinking that thankfulness must be more than just an ability to see how much you have. Because what if you lose it all? Or what if you really don't have that much? Or what if you know how much you have, but you still feel discontented?

Thankfulness must mean something more than that. Thankfulness must be something deeper. Soul-deep.
"I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD." - Psalm 116:17
Here is this verse that I have been growing to love, because in this verse, David gets it. He gets that we are all greedy little discontented beings, the whole lot of us, and because it is our human nature to always want more, to be thankful is a sacrifice.

A sacrifice is usually something that doesn't come easily to us; something that costs us something. We sacrifice our time through volunteering or helping our neighbors move or babysitting for free. We sacrifice our money by donating or tithing or picking up the tab at lunch. Sacrifice usually means doing something when we would rather do something else.

In Luke 1, Mary is told that she will give birth to the Messiah.

Hello.

If there is anything that will pile heaps and heaps of life-long responsibility onto your shoulders and require an entire mindset shift and break your heart with the agony that is to come, it's being the mother of the Lamb who will be slaughtered and save the world through the shedding of His blood.

But here is Mary's response:
"And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.'" - Luke 1:46-47
Mary offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving. And her thanksgiving is not a list of what she has, but a list of who God is.

She delights in God Himself.

This is what I have been missing.

I try to counter my list of the things that are going wrong with a list of the things that are going right, but the reassurance that that offers will never last me very long. What I need is God Himself.
"When you come to any promise or any other part of Scripture, look at it and through it to God Himself who makes the promise, before it applies to you. And let yourself see Him, dwell on Him, the God behind these promises. Let yourself linger with this God." - John Piper
I do think it's important to be aware of how much you have been given. The blessings of health or warmth or safety or family or income or a new car or your favorite food or a good job or good friends. It's important to see what good things we have in our lives and not take them for granted.

However, I think the sacrifice of thanksgiving becomes joy to us when we delight more in who God is than in what He gives. Because thanksgiving is what brings us into the presence of God (Psalm 95:2), and in God's presence there is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11).

And I want to get much better at that type of thanksgiving.