Monday, December 19, 2011

The Messiah

It is nearly Christmas.

We were on our way to a party, and we needed to pick up goat cheese.  The idea of the party was that everyone would bring pizza toppings, and we were bringing the ingredients to make a goat cheese, fig, and caramelized onion pizza (which is, incidentally, amazing).  So with the kids in the back seat and snow falling heavily, we drove to the grocery store.  I parked, while Jan ran in to buy the goat cheese.

I was listening to CBC Radio 2.  They were broadcasting a concert from Copenhagen, the idea of which was to celebrate and promote world peace by incorporating Arabic and Jewish music into traditional Christmas music.  They had an amazingly beautiful version of a number of pieces from Handel's Messiah, re-orchestrated with Arabic drums.

There's something about the beginning of the Messiah.  The text is from Isaiah 40.

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins.

I will admit that even when I was studying the Bible in university at CMU, I  got choked-up in when we were studying Isaiah, and we got to chapter 40.  I'm not sure I can fully explain why.  The beauty of Handel's music only adds to the emotion, and in this performance the tenor (who was excellent) kept breaking away from Handel into Arabic music, which added a plaintive mystery and beauty to the already beautiful recitative and aria.

So I told G, "This music, that we're listening to, is very beautiful."

She listened quietly for a moment, then asked me "Is the man who is singing sad?"

"No, he's not sad.  He's singing to God's people that they don't have to be sad anymore.  He's saying: 'It's okay, you don't have to cry'"

"Why is he saying 'it's okay'?"

"Because ... God's people don't always do what God tells them to do.  And when God's people do bad things, sometimes God punishes them.  But here God is saying that their punishment is over.  God is saying that they don't need to be sad, that they don't need to be punished.  God is saying 'I forgive you'".

She thought about that for a moment.

"Like how when I do something bad you forgive me?"

I was feeling emotional already, and at this point I could barely keep it together enough to say, "Yes.  Exactly like that."

It is an amazing thing to watch a child learn, to watch a baby learn to sit, and crawl, and stand, and talk; to watch a toddler learn to express her ideas, and show off her memory, and exercise her imagination; to watch a child discover the world, and God too.  And it's humbling to think that I am responsible (partly) for teaching her.  Human fathers fail to be a fitting mirror for our heavenly father.  But what I want to do is be the kind of father who can be an image to my daughters of God's love.  And I know I will fail, but I want to try.  To hear my daughter describe me that way, even for a moment,--to hear her think: "What is my daddy like?  What does he do?  He forgives me." is almost unbearably moving.  It is exactly the kind of father I always hoped to be.  It also makes me think of God so differently to think that God's love for me is like my love for my daughters.  It was an insight, on an emotional level, to realize that God forgives Israel--that God forgives me--just like I forgive G: easily and endlessly.

I said, "I love you, G", and we listened to the concert, until Jan came back with the goat cheese.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Unsolved Mystery of the Blocks

So here's what happened. Back in the spring of 2009, G was 6 months old. We had found a bag of 60 wooden alphabet blocks at a thrift store for $6. It was a steal and we loved them. But, G was a little young for them, so we put them in an ice cream container and put them on our windowsill. We brought them down a couple times for her to play with, but they kept ending up all over our apartment. So we put them away on the sill until she was a bit older. A few months later, I went looking for them. They were missing. I didn't think much of it, assuming they'd turn up eventually.
In the summer, we moved apartments, across the street. I kept thinking "they'll turn up in the move". Paul thought so too.
We packed up our entire apartment. Everything we owned went into boxes and went across the street.
The blocks did not turn up! We searched our new apartment to no avail.
The two of us are positive that we never took them out of the house, we had no reason to. The window ledge they were on was the second floor with no easy access from the outside. Both of us remember that they lived on that ledge.
This was almost 3 years ago, and it still bugs us. What happened to the blocks? Where did they go?

We have been thinking about them again since we bought M wooden blocks for her birthday. It seems like the most logical, Holmes-esque deduction is that someone stole them. But who? And why?? I can't imagine any of our friends stealing them. Plus many of them knew the story of our missing blocks! They had opportunity to bring them back if they took them. How do you walk out of someone's house with an ice cream pail without them noticing?

It's like they fell into the black hole of oblivion. I may not, I almost certainly will not ever find out what happened to them, but it will bug me forever.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Books

It's my favourite time of year for reading! We had a Dickens Party on Friday, complete with Plum Pudding and Smoking Bishop. We read all of A Christmas Carol aloud to each other and it was fantastic. It took about 3 hours to read the entire thing and since the wine was a-flowing, the ghost of Christmas Past was a bit more rollicking then usual. We were all pretty happy to call out "God Bless Us, Everyone" in unison at the end.

I have discovered two books in the past few years that have become my favourite ones to read for Christmas. They are not as commonplace as A Christmas Carol, but both are fantastic. I don't yet own either of them, but I may just have to buy them soon.

The first is Mortimer's Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson.

It's the story of a mouse who climbs the tree and finds a nativity scene. Every night, he drags all the pieces out, including baby Jesus and sleeps in the manger until he hears the story of Christmas told by the family who lives in the house. He has a change of heart and realizes who it is that he's been dragging out of bed each night. It is an unexpected ending to a very sweet book, and one of the few picture books I've found that tells the true meaning of Christmas in a meaningful way.

The other book is The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder.

Gaarder is the author of the fictionalized history of philosophy, Sophie's World and the fantastic twisting, turning tale The Solitaire Mystery. He writes in Norwegian, but most of his books are translated to English. The Christmas Mystery weaves the story of a boy who finds an old wooden advent calendar with the story of a young girl many years earlier. The narrative draws you in and twists and turns. I couldn't put it down. Like Mortimer's Christmas Manger, it manages to tell the true story of Christmas without being explicitly about the Nativity.

If you get a chance to read either of these books this Christmas, I highly recommend them!

Monday, December 5, 2011

One Year Old

Today wee little M is one year  old. I took a monthly photo of her with the same toy, starting at 2 months old.

One month old, without the toy:
Two Months

Three Months

Four Months

Five Months

Six Months

Seven Months

Eight Months

Nine Months

Ten Months

Eleven Months

One Year Old!