December. proper noun. The only month of winter that’s worthwhile, let’s be real.
Despite the below-zero temperatures rearing their ugly heads earlier than normal this year, and the cold, and a mild Grinchiness at the beginning of the month, I really did enjoy December.
Maybe it’s that Advent really resonated with me. I couldn’t leap straight into the festivity. I needed to warm up with waiting, and longing, and watching. I needed to contemplate the contrast of the world’s dark and Christ’s light, of pain and hope, of sin and salvation. Instead of Santa and reindeer, the deep magic older than time itself, as Aslan calls it, beckoned.
I felt deep appreciation for my church in this season, for the Anglican readings and candle lightings and the poetry of the prayers. My own devotions were more intentional, too. It all made me feel prepared (well, as prepared as is actually possible) for the celebration that, suddenly, was upon us on December 25.
The month ended in a flurry of family and activity and long car rides, leaving me drinking the Christmas season down to the dregs now that things have quieted. For mere days more, the stars still hang, the tree is still lit, the Christmas music still plays, and I am still attempting to comprehend the mystery of the Incarnation. It’s going to take more than 12 days. More than a lifetime, in fact.
A big ol’ 2017 reflection is on its way. In the meantime, before the 12 days of Christmas are over and I officially move on from the season of good cheer, here’s what I loved in December.
A Rule Against Murder – Louise Penny. I adore the Inspector Gamache series. This is another solid installment that did not disappoint. The setting of this book, a lakeside lodge in the Quebec wilderness, is as magical as a murder scene can be.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate – Jacqueline Kelly. Darwin is gaining popularity, the telephone is spreading to rural Texas, and Callie Vee is an intrepid tomboy who stumbles into the world of natural science. This book had so much to love, including a strong and sassy lead character, a vivid picture of turn-of-the-century Texas, and an exploration of science and family and adventure.
Watch for the Light. These readings for Advent and Christmas by authors like C.S. Lewis, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, and Kathleen Norris guided my thoughts in this most-beloved season. I absolutely plan to buy the Lent version for later in the year.
Of Mess and Moxie – Jen Hatmaker. True confessions: I read all the funny chapters of this before wrapping it up for someone else. I can’t speak for the more serious pieces of this, but her humor is true to form!
Advent and Christmas playlists. Songs on repeat this year included:
- Follow the Shepherd Home by Mindy Smith
- May You Find a Light by Josh Garrels
- My All in Thee by Young Oceans
- You’re Here by Francesca Battistelli
- A Cradle in Bethlehem by Sara Groves
- Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song) by Amy Grant
The Last Jedi. While I would never claim to be a rabid Star Wars fan, I do accompany my siblings to the movies and enjoy the franchise well. After this movie, though, I discovered that I am capable of having some strong opinions about these films. This latest movie was enjoyable to watch, and seemed to be filmed well. It also busted all the fan theories, which I’m normally in support of. But there were too many weird things that weren’t explained well. What was up with Leia’s weird space walk? Why didn’t the stand-in Rebel commander just tell everyone what she was doing? Why did Rey believe she could save Kylo after so few conversations?
The Young Victoria. This story explores how Queen Victoria comes to power and the beginning of her relationship with her husband Albert. I enjoyed this movie a lot. Emily Blunt is rarely disappoints, and the same actor who plays Wickham in Pride and Prejudice plays Albert – a delightful surprise! However, I wanted something that explored Victoria’s thoughts and feelings with a little more depth – some of her decisions seemed too speedy or stubborn, and a little more information could have helped that pacing.
Victoria and Abdul. Another Victoria movie! This one focuses on the end of the queen’s reign and shows the little-known relationship between Queen Victoria and an Indian clerk named Abdul. Abdul is pulled from India for a ceremony, where he accidentally enchants the queen and becomes her “munshi,” or teacher and companion. Judi Dench is one formidable lady, and Abdul is disarmingly adorable, and together they make the story both tender and comedic.
The Crown. ‘Tis the season for dramas about British monarchs, apparently. I love this show so much, and I love that the second season is out, and I love that Adam will watch it with me.
Elf. Every year.
The Monuments Men. This is the only kind of war movie I will willingly watch, and I have wanted to watch it since it came out years ago. The best part of the film was how some of the character duos played off one another, but I did find the plot a bit lackluster. I also wish it were more historically accurate, so I’m planning to watch the documentary The Rape of Europa, which I watched years ago, to get my fix there.
Acure Organics Argan Oil. Thanks to drying medication and crazy cold air, my face got so dry this month that it started flaking. I added this under my face lotion both morning and night, and the flaking has ceased, hallelujah. I also haven’t broken out from it, which has happened when I’ve used face oils in the past.
Christmas treats. Caramel puffcorn (the recipe is on the back of the puffcorn bag – how handy) and Shannan Martin’s crack bark are my super easy go-to’s.
A million and one things.
Seeing NEEDTOBREATHE in concert! My brother and I attended their All the Feels acoustic concert at the State Theater. It was the perfect venue to see one of my bucket list concerts, and the band was freaking fantastically amazing. Especially when the turned off all the mics and did the final song and encore completely acoustic.
Seeing Ellie Holcomb in concert (the very next night)! ‘Twas apparently a weekend of bucket list concerts. Ellie’s voice is just as lovely in person, and she is completely enthusiastic and adorable. Case in point: she wore snow boots because she forgot to pack her other shoes, and she totally pulled it off. Since this was a small church sanctuary sort of gig, I got to meet her afterwards. She hugged everyone, and we talked about all of 10 seconds about being middle school English teachers (her prior gig). So basically, we’re best friends now.
Attending the European Christmas Market at Union Depot in St. Paul. My brothers and I met up with my parents for this event, which is honestly all about the food. If you like perogies, go.
Seeing A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie. The Advanced English classes at my school read this in December, and we brought some of them to watch an evening performance. Seeing how much they love the show – some of my 7th graders from last year came back again! – is always delightful.
Reading Dorothy Sayers’ Advent play He That Should Come. Anselm House, a Christian study group, held a reading of this play, which was originally broadcast as a radio drama. It was way more comedic than I expected while still being reflective, and I absolutely want to read her plays for other seasons. As a bonus, Adam happened to fly into the state hours before the event. We’ve loved sharing reading nights like this in the past, so it was the perfect kick-off to his time in MN
Checking out oysters at Meritage with Adam. They are not my thing, but hey, I tried. At least we felt very French. (We also attempted to check out ice skating next to the Landmark Center, but they closed earlier than advertised on Google. Boo. Next time.)
Attending the American Swedish Institute’s Winter Solstice celebration with Adam and his family. On the tour of the mansion, which was beautifully decorated for Christmas, I discovered traditional Advent stars and realized that I already had them hanging in my apartment. I just thought they were random Ikea decorations. I love them even more now.
All the school Christmas things, from Secret Santas and potlucks and parties…and attempting to make kids learn things while all they can think about is break. And let’s be honest, all I could think about was break, too.
Christmas break! So many highlights:
- Downhill skiing with Adam’s family
- Candlelit Christmas Eve soup
- Playing Settlers of Catan
- Christmas cookie baking with Grandma, my sister, and friends
- Snowmobiling around my grandparents’ yard
- Eating a lot of dessert…
- Relearning to cross-country ski
- Hitting up W.A. Frost and a friend’s NYE party
- Having Adam in Minnesota! For more than 3 days at a time!
Whew. No wonder I only read two books this month. Here’s to a grand finale to 2017 and a beautiful beginning to 2018.
Linking up with Leigh Kramer.