First Sunday of Advent: Hope

The first Sunday of Advent is the first day of the year on the liturgical calendar. It’s also the the Sunday of Hope. You hear it in today’s readings, which include  parts of Isaiah 64. Here is an excerpt from The Message:

Since before time began
    no one has ever imagined,
No ear heard, no eye seen, a God like you
    who works for those who wait for him.
You meet those who happily do what is right,
    who keep a good memory of the way you work.
But how angry you’ve been with us!
    We’ve sinned and kept at it so long!
    Is there any hope for us? Can we be saved?
We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated.
    Our best efforts are grease-stained rags.
We dry up like autumn leaves—
    sin-dried, we’re blown off by the wind.
No one prays to you
    or makes the effort to reach out to you
Because you’ve turned away from us,
    left us to stew in our sins.

Still, God, you are our Father.
We’re the clay and you’re our potter:
All of us are what you made us.
Don’t be too angry with us, O God.
Don’t keep a permanent account of wrongdoing.
Keep in mind, please, we are your people—all of us.
Your holy cities are all ghost towns:
Zion’s a ghost town,
Jerusalem’s a field of weeds.
Our holy and beautiful Temple,
which our ancestors filled with your praises,
Was burned down by fire,
all our lovely parks and gardens in ruins.
In the face of all this,
are you going to sit there unmoved, God?

To hear a really beautiful reading of this, listen to my friend Chuck read it, starting at minute 10:25.

Like many families, we use an Advent wreath to guide us through the Sundays of Advent. Here is ours this year:

The woodlands creep in

We have these shelves in our new house that just delight me. When I first saw them, I didn’t understand them–built-in shelves to shallow for books? What did one even do with that? After getting used to moving every few years (roughly every 2 years for the last 8 years), I had forgotten that people sometimes make their home their own.

We’ve been having fun with these shelves, so much so that the kids josh me a bit about them. (“Next month’s theme is terrariums. With live miniature animals. I’m not sure how she’s going to do it yet, but I know Mom can pull it off.”) We’re far from being featured in Better Homes and Gardens, but we’re having fun. And for May and much of June, our theme has been “creepy woodlands.” We didn’t exactly decide on that–we just knew that we enjoyed painting these gnomes back in December and it was their time to shine.

Enjoy some silly photos!

 

3 porcelain gnomes: one with a gray beard, red shirt, and blue hat, one with a brown beard, black shirt, and green hat, and one with a white beard, blue shirt, and gray hat

a small round wooded birdhouse covered in moss
When we moved last summer, we had to leave our houseplants, including our fairy garden, behind, but this little piece of it came with us.

3 white candles on osage orange candle plates
One of our favorite parts of Kansas is Osage orange trees and their wood.

 

img_4229
We love postcards! These are a few recent ones from friends. The second is from Wonderfair, a store in Lawrence, Kansas, and the last one is of the graves of LBJ and Lady Bird Johnson.

img_4234
These porcelain animals might be my favorite part. They move around during the day, but at night they gather around the fireplace. Are they listening to wisdom from Old Owl? Sharing news of their day? Participating in some secret rite? We found these beads in Small World Gallery in Lindsborg, Kansas on a trip to Kanopolis State Park.

a small copper watering can and a succulent in a ceramic pot
Can I keep succulents alive? Doubtful. But they can die in style, thanks to the ceramic work of my friend Hanna.

a succelent in a small ceramic pot

img_4225

Wintertime Adventures with Flat Stanley!

IMG_0119

We love to host Flat Stanley (or Flat other people, too!), so we were glad that a friend of ours, second grader S., recently sent him our way for a visit. We live in northeastern Utah. The state is the ancestral home of the Ute, Dine (Navajo), Paiute, Goshute, and Shoshone nations. Today, about 60,000 indigenous people live in Utah, about half of them on reservations in the southern part of the state. Outside of the reservations, our county has some of the most Native American people.

Here are some highlights of our time together in the Beehive State.

img_0007

On the campus of Weber State University, home of the Wildcats. WSU has more than 27,111 students and just celebrated its 120th birthday while Flat Stanley was here.

img_0099

Purple and white are the colors of Weber State. Since Stanley went to college for a day, we thought he might like a Weber State Wildcats sweatshirt–and a cup of hot cocoa. He like our dog Sonny so much we thought he might enjoy a pet or two of his own, so we helped him adopt a puppy and a kitten.

img_0077

Enjoy chocolate-chip-peanut-butter-banana pancakes. I guess it makes sense that Flat Stanley’s favorite breakfast food would be something flat.

img_0008

Out to dinner for Indian. He was very polite and didn’t pick out all the paneer for himself.

img_0100.jpg

Stanley forgot his boots back in Maryland, so we made him a pair. On average, Utah gets 60 inches of snow per year at the capital, Salt Lake City, which is about 30 minutes away from us. That is about three times as much snow as Baltimore gets. But snowfall in Utah is very uneven. Our climate includes a wide range of ecosystems, including the Mojave Desert, the driest desert in north America, in the Southwest corner, and the high peaks of the western edge of the Rocky Mountains. Our house is at 4,300 feet above sea level. (When you go to Ocean City, Maryland, you are at sea level–so we are more than 4,000 feet higher than you!) But other parts of our town are much higher since our town is built into a mountain. That also means some places get a lot of snow. One of our area mountains had more than 25 feet of snow this year so far–and it will get more before winter is over!

IMG_7911

We took Stanley to Crystal Hot Springs in nearby Honeyville, Utah. These hot springs  have a higher mineral content than any hot springs in the world–9,000 pounds every 24 hours! 450 generations of indigenous people used the area for their winter camping grounds. Very close to here, the Golden Spike joined the eastern and western parts of the transcontinental railroad, joining one end of the US to the other by rail. Many Chinese immigrants helped build the railroad. They build wooden tubs in Honeyville to capture the hot water so they could soak in them after a long day of hard work. Later, after World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent wounded soldiers by bus to the hot springs so that they could relax in the water. We took Flat Stanley swimming there in the middle of a snowstorm! You can’t see it in the photo, but snowflakes were falling all around us. No matter what the temperature outside, though, in the water, it is always 120-134 degrees F in the hot springs. And just a few feet away, there is a cold spring that is always 65-75 degrees F. If you get to warm in the swimming pool fed by the hot springs, you can jump in the cold water pool–or jump out and roll around in the snow, then jump back in!

IMG_0118

Utah has “the greatest snow on Earth,” as our license plates say. (Get it? Like the greatest show on earth!). On cold and snowy nights, we like to settle down in front of the fireplace with a book. And when you are flat, you can be your own bookmark!

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

Thanks for joining us, Flat Stanley! We’d love to see you again!

Seriously, if there is a Flat Stanley in your life, send him our way! We love to send postcards, too, so if you or a child you know is in need of one, just ask.