*kicks soapbox out of the way so we’re on the same level, eye to eye*
I was watching Zootopia (which is a pretty fun film with some very timely messages). You know that scene where the gazelle gives the speech about celebrating our differences? From a seat a little ways away from me, I heard someone scoff and mutter, “Oh, brother.”
Somewhere in between those two words, other incidents sprang back. Like when I was in the car with someone and they spit out their window at a gay person’s car and called them names that no human being should ever be called.
I remembered being told that as a woman, I had no right to speak, and that because I was a young person, I was stupid.
What disturbed me was all these people called themselves Christians.
It made me wonder if we’ve gotten diversity all wrong. And it made me excited to think that we have a chance to make it right.
God created diversity. God created differences. He created two genders instead of one. He created all races, abilities, sizes, shapes, and personalities of people. And He called them all very good. (Genesis 1:31)
Somewhere, we got the nerve to call that good bad. Because of the fall, we can’t see things clearly on our own. That’s why we needed Jesus to die and rise again.
I, at least, have the tendency to take the saving grace, yes please, but I’ll keep using my own glasses, thank you very much.
But if Jesus died and rose for me, then He died and rose for anyone I might call “them.” He created them, too, called them good, and sees who they really are, can, and will be.
Nowhere do I see Jesus condemning other cultures—their traditions, the way they talk, the way they look, their viewpoints. He went out of His way to go through their area, to eat with them, to hear their story. (Matthew 9:9-13, Matthew 26:6-13, John 4)
We are missing out on so much by attacking, bullying, scoffing at, making fun, or even just ignoring our neighbors. I don’t have to be ashamed of my differences to love someone, just like they don’t have to either. I don’t need to push someone down so I can stand taller. Christ is all I need.
I know it hurts when someone does it to me. So why is it so hard for me to extend this common courtesy to someone different than me, someone I might not completely understand? (Luke 6:31)
Because the unknown is scary and fear is powerful. But perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18) Have I been saved from fear or haven’t I? Who am I to call evil what God has called good?
But what if what someone else calls their diversity is tearing down what God called good?
It’s important to know the difference between preferences and standards here. Standards may hurt at first, but ultimately lead to a healing place. Preferences (when inserted into an argument) never heal, always hurt.
Political views aren’t worth tearing someone down. Dress codes aren’t worth it. Bible translations aren’t worth it. Church policies aren’t worth it. Worship music isn’t worth it.
But what about when it’s not just poking my preferences, but is actually tearing down the beautiful thing God gave them?
My God is big enough to handle it. If it weren’t for Him, I’d be in a far worse boat. If God can change my mind, He can change theirs. It’s not my job to “fix” them, and it’s nothing short of arrogant to believe it so. It’s my job to show them what God’s love and truth looks like in real time.
Jesus hung out with and talked to wrong people, too. How do you think I got here?
Even if it were my job to fix them, am I going to win them over by spitting on their car? I certainly wouldn’t listen to anyone who did that to me, much less want anything they had to offer. Love wins, not hate. Christ showed us that firsthand.
Everyone has a story. Everyone has feelings. Everyone has hurts, fears, hopes, and dreams. Everybody laughs and everybody cries. Everyone matters. God created everyone good and He loves them.
We’re all the same. Just in different ways.
And I want to listen. To see past labels and hear stories. To learn and to try and to experience and to love. (1 Corinthians 9:22)
After all the love He’s shown me . . . how much more should I? (1 John 4:19)
God loves diversity. God celebrates differences.
And so do I.
*now please enjoy a writing meme for your troubles*
Yes, I am in my twenties.
Yes, I live twenty minutes from a professional theater.
Yes, I just went to see my first live professional musical earlier this month.
See, when I was younger, I thought I didn’t like musicals. What was the point of interrupting a story with some random songs? Just tell the story all the way through, thank you very much.
However, as I got older and began developing my own unique tastes, a friend encouraged me to try a couple musicals. And shock of all shocks, I really liked them. Turned out musicals were just like everything else—there were ones I absolutely hated and ones that I absolutely adored.
That was how I wound up seeing Cinderella at our local theater this summer.
It was unlike anything I had ever been to before. I’d been to concerts, one of them at this same theater. I’d been to high school plays and musicals. I’d watched filmed musicals.
But this was different.
As soon as I got home, I jotted down some of my noticings, mainly so my brain would quiet down and let me sleep. Why not explore some of those things here?
After all, musicals are a form of art, just like writing.
Just like life.
The musical was different, but better.
I’d listened to the 2013 Broadway Cinderella recording before attending the show and filled in the gaps between the songs with how I thought it might go.
Very little of the show matched what I had imagined—and am I ever glad it didn’t. The story flowed in a way that it couldn’t have had I forced all my ideas and presuppositions on it.
Not only was the story different, but the show itself was different. It differed from other versions of the story, other versions of the show, even other actors’ portrayals.
For instance, I honestly thought the live Topher’s voice was better (but it could just be that the soundtrack version was also the voice of Hans from Frozen . . .). I could understand what Marie was saying in There’s Music in You (vibratto makes it hard sometimes). Each character was nuanced, unique.
The actors and actresses took a show, a story, and made it their own.
Different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong, or bad, or a disaster. In fact, different is often the best something can ever be.
I was included.
Since the theater I attended is circular, the story was literally happening around me. No seat was a bad seat, I could always see what was happening on the stage. Sometimes I had a unique perspective that someone across the stage from me didn’t have, and vice versa. A few rows ahead of us, dancers whirled, and a few seats away from us, actors and actresses entered and exited in the aisles. (The Fairy Godmother walked right past me.)
Even as lovely romantic scenes played out before me, I was so in the story and the mindset of it all that I was scanning the entrances and exits and glancing over my shoulder for Sebastian and Madame lurking about.
It was something beautiful and glorious to fit so perfectly into a story, like it was written with me in mind and wouldn’t have been the same without me.
Even though we know life is the same way, sometimes it gets lonely, and we need the reminder.
Mistakes were the most beautiful thing.
One of my favorite small moments was during Ella’s transformation.
It was seamless. Almost.
Except for a snag in the back of Ella’s dress that hitched the fabric in a weird way. A snag Ella was oblivious to.
The entire audience waited and watched. The fox and raccoon footmen behind Ella debated via facial expressions just how far their duties extended.
And then the Fairy Godmother turned Ella around and smoothed out her dress. The gesture fit her character, the story so well, so seamlessly. It was a simple, yet heartwarming moment.
One we wouldn’t have seen if a mistake hadn’t been made first.
My favorite moments were the villagers’ dance in The Prince is Giving a Ball and the waltz at the ball. When the ensemble gets in on the action, whirling and twirling and turning cartwheels all at once, the choreography, how all the diverse and moving parts work together, amazes me.
But something more, you can feel the energy they’re passing back and forth to each other. And somewhere inside those acts, they pass that energy to you and allow you to join in, even if you’re in a seat and they’re on a stage.
Of course, it also may have helped that I attended with a friend, too. :)
That energy is life, isn’t it? We’re all part of something so big and wonderful, and there come those moments where we’re right where we’re meant to be, playing our part and working alongside others who are doing the same.
The ache in my throat.
At one point in Loneliness of Evening, Ella and Topher’s voices blended so perfectly that against my will, my breath caught. Goosebumps raised on my arm. An ache rose in my throat. And I couldn’t help but look up, raise my chin a little bit.
It’s the only way I can describe it. Such a raw, perfect moment that reminded me of all that was true and all I could be.
The hardest part of attending this musical was waking up the next morning to a world that had clearly not just attended their first musical. The excitement inside me dimmed a bit as I returned to the real world with all the usual things to do.
But why should I let the world dim that? They don’t get to make that call.
In a way, I had my own Cinderella moment. The world may be rough. But there’s real-life magic, too. Sometimes a musical is the best way to remember that.
What about you? What are some of your favorite musicals? Share your adventures in the comments below!
Looking back over my posts, I spotted one common theme weaving through all of them.
And that theme is . . . well, theme.
It’s not just on here, either. Whenever I go to discuss a book, movie, or show with someone, the first thing I’ll bring up is theme and how the characters and plot artfully reflected it.
Which got me wondering. Because I wonder about things a lot.
Why is theme so important to me?
But first off, what is theme?
Theme is simply what a book is saying. It’s what you think about after you close the book. It’s what it makes you feel and think both as you’re reading and when you’re not. It’s what seeps into your life and changes you for the better.
You might be able to sum it up in a one-line question. You might not be able to. That’s the funny thing about themes. They are usually far bigger than you think.
Theme is memorable.
Don’t I mean those long monologues or snappy morals tacked on to a story?
No. In fact, if a story contains either one of those, I will probably throw it out the window and go running in the other direction.
Few humans that I have met yet like to be preached at by a book. The great thing about books is that they can get a point across without ever saying a word.
(Not sold? How many stories are in the Bible?)
Tell me a pithy quote and I might forget it immediately. Tell me a story and I’ll remember it in some shape or form forever.
Why? Because stories show us what things look like in the real world. They weave their way into our lives. When you have to think about something to figure it out, it sticks with you longer. Kind of like when you do the work on something, it means more to you.
Theme makes a difference.
When I close a book and am still thinking about the characters and plot, chances are that it had something to say that got my attention.
For instance, I thought about Shadow by Kara Swanson long after I read it. Not only was I in love with her story world and characters, but what she had to say through that book touched on some really hard things I was going through at the time. It was extremely comforting and I still return to that novel when I’m having a hard time.
What made this theme so beautiful for me was that I got to see it work in my life. I got to see how a book can come alongside someone and make them feel less alone. I love theme because it changes my life and others’ lives.
Theme is something big in a little world.
If you want to crush my soul, then read a book that I’ve read and completely miss the theme.
Seriously. That is a hill I will die on. *laughs*
Some people choose to be so little-minded. We get wrapped up in news headlines and controversies and conspiracy theories and personal differences.
Which makes me incredibly sad. They stay within the tidy lines of what they think is right and what they think is wrong, refusing to step out and try anything that looks suspicious. But they miss out on so many beautiful, messy things.
I mean, like God for one thing. We have no lines on earth that can measure Him. He won’t fall between our lines. Does that make Him bad? No. It makes Him something to be explored, which is an immense privilege.
He gives us the privilege of exploring other things, too.
And what safer way is there to explore things than with a book in the corner of your couch?
The great thing about story is we can try things without ever putting ourselves at risk. I would not advise you become an angry, self-absorbed villain for instance, but through a book, you can see it played out. You see your choices manifested and where they will lead.
Of course, you do have to be careful. Some things really are just right and wrong. Because like I said, theme does make a difference.
But the best thing about theme is it is something truly big in a little world. The best books are the ones where they say something with as few words as possible. Where the theme is so much bigger than even the book itself. Where you have to keep exploring it after you put the book down, because there’s just so much to explore.
The best themes encourage you to keep an open mind, to see the world in a different way, to maybe even change your mind.
Those are just three reasons why I love theme, and why you’ll probably still see a lot of theme-oriented posts on here. What about you? What do you love about books and movies and why?
You ever gone into a movie and then come back out with something entirely different than what you expected? That’s how I felt watching Pixar’s Inside Out. Sure, it’s a kids’ movie. But if you’ve been around here for a while, you know that doesn’t stop me.
It didn’t this time, anyway. I came out of the movie feeling like I’d been hit in the face with a Pixar movie, a psychology lesson, and a counseling session all at once.
It really explains so much, these emotions running around in a bright, colorful version of our brains. Explains why we get random songs stuck in our head. Explains why facts and opinions get so jumbled. Even explains why cats can be perfectly calm and then need to be in the next room RIGHT NOW.
In Riley’s head, Joy is in control. At least, she was until this whole move happened and all the other emotions thought they needed control of the board. And Sadness (who is secretly Joy’s least favorite person, uh, emotion in the world) felt the need to touch everything no matter what Joy tries.
When you think about it, it’s really that misguided attempt to keep Sadness from touching everything that gets Joy and Sadness sucked up a tube and deposited in long term memory. Leaving Anger, Fear, and Disgust to rule Riley’s head.
It’s a long movie with a lot of nuances that I can’t dive into here. (Well, I could, but it’s not really necessary.)
But really, the whole journey isn’t as much about getting back to Riley’s headquarters. I mean, Joy and Sadness are stuck together for this whole journey. And along the way, Joy is forced to admit that Sadness gets some things right. Like the way she comforted Riley’s imaginary friend Bing Bong who was in danger of being forgotten. Like the way she came up with the idea to scare Riley awake to get the train of thought running again.
But that’s not enough. When it comes down to keeping Riley’s core memories entirely happy or getting them both back to headquarters, Joy chooses to go on alone.
Of course, the tube she’s taking back breaks and lands her in the dump, where any memories left fade to gray and then into ash and then into . . . nothing.
Joy wanders through the gray memories, picking up one here, another one there. “Remember this?” “Remember that?”
Finally Joy drops all the memories, wraps her arms around herself, and begins to cry. “I just wanted Riley to be happy.”
That’s when she notices the one glowing memory still scattered among the grey.
It’s one of Joy’s favorites—a time that Riley spent with her parents and her entire hockey team. But when she rewinds the memory a bit, she realizes it only came because Riley missed the winning goal and was sitting in a tree alone wanting to quit the team.
“They came to help because of Sadness,” Joy realizes.
Nobody really likes Sadness. Not many of the people watching the movie. Not her own emotional peers. In real life, we don’t like feeling sad. (I don’t, anyway.) We don’t want Sadness invading our everyday life, our memories, our anything.
It’d be so much easier to just skip and dance our way through our happy days.
But what I’d never thought about or expected when watching Inside Out was that sadness is what makes happiness possible.
The best moments of joy come from the deepest moments of sadness.
Sadness is like the listening ear that comes and sits next to us in our darkest moments. Joy is the friend that comes and helps us stand back up.
I wouldn’t know how deep joy is if I hadn’t known how deep sadness was.
I wouldn’t know how much my friends and family care about and support me if I hadn’t felt alone first.
I wouldn’t know how much God loves me and His power over the darkness if I hadn’t felt unloved and helpless first.
Sadness isn’t a place to camp out. It’s a checkpoint, a train station on the way to Joy. A checkpoint we need.
We need sadness. But we need joy too.
Luckily, I know the Source of all joy—the One Who works even sadness to lead towards the brightest moments.
*What about you? Did you like Inside Out? Any insights from your own emotional journey?*
Rebels Rebelling Against the Rebellion
The climax of the movie Rogue One (yes, I've been involved in a Star Wars marathon, you?) involves a group of rebel fighters who have now technically rebelled against the rebellion to complete a secret mission to retrieve plans for the Death Star (a big planet burning cannon) that could exploit the Star’s fatal weakness. Wow. Can I take a breath after that explanation?
Each of the fighters has a part to play in this attack. Some of them fight on the beach. Some hang out inside the ship, trying to get the technology up and running (unfortunately working with a cable that is too short). Still others break inside the station itself to smuggle the plans out.
Chirrut Imwe (I probably haven’t spelled his name right, I tried, okay?) is on the beach.
It’s interesting that he’s there at all, mainly because he’s blind. (Proof that a disability does not slow a person down). This Jedi has to rely completely on his instincts (which are very good, by the way), and usually he fights better than anyone else on the team.
At one point in the conflict, the Station Rebels need the Beach Rebels to flip some sort of command switch to allow the satellite to send the plans back to the Rebellion. Multiple people try and fail to reach the command switch in many different ways.
Then Chirrut Imwe steps out from the rubble he’d taken shelter behind and steps towards the switch.
Right out in the open. With blaster fire on every side.
Whispering, “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.”
Life Isn’t a Battle But It Kinda Is
This is my favorite scene in Rogue One. Because it kind of illustrates life.
To be clear, I’m not saying life is just a battle, so expect horrible things, and be intense and serious and as gloomy as possible all the time. If that’s how I’m living, then I’m setting myself up to lose.
But sometimes it seems like a lot of horrible fiery things whiz past us—far too close for comfort. The pressure to get everything on a list done and make everyone happy. The loss of someone or something important to you. An underlying struggle that no one knows about because they’re not listening. Abuse—whether physical or emotional—from someone you trusted.
It can be a hard world to live in.
But we have the Force with us. And not in the Star Wars sense of the word, as in, we have the only single Force in our universe that can be stopped by nothing. (Regardless of your feelings about the Force in Star Wars, you have to admit, the correlation is strong with this one.)
And because Jesus didn’t stay dead, because He rose again and defeated anything that might have a hold on us, we have the Force. We are one with the Force—we’re His sons and daughters actually—and the Force is with us.
That means everything that whizzes past us whizzes past Him too.
The Force is With Me
Looking at it in this light, I completely understand why Chirrut Imwe didn’t hesitate to step out from behind the ship. If I had something on my side that could defeat anything life threw at me, why on earth would spend it huddled behind a ship?
But I do. So often I do.
Life may be a blaster field. Just because Chirrut had the force didn’t mean the blasts stopped coming. If you’ve seen Rogue One, you know how this scene ends, and it’s not altogether happily for Chirrut Imwe. (Or does it?)
It hurts to live out here sometimes.
But because God is with us, the hurt we feel isn’t unheard, unseen, or unfelt by someone else. And we don’t have to let that hurt stop us from being where we were meant to be, fulfilling the purpose He gave to us.
I am with the Force. And the Force is with me.
*What did you think of Rogue One? Where are you in the battle--still in the ship? In the direct line of fire? With the Force? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
Can't imagine why I thought of this meme when I was thinking of Rogue One . . .
Today, I have the honor of sharing a post from R. M. Archer. You may have seen her posts on her blog or on Kingdom Pen (which have been so helpful and have taught me so much). She is sharing about why she chose indie publishing. (And keep watch on her blog later today as I share about why I chose traditional publishing!) This post really clarified indie publishing for me, and I hope it does the same for you!
Thanks for having me, Rachel!
Today I’m super excited to talk about some of the reasons I chose indie publishing—and why I plan to continue indie publishing for the foreseeable future.
Really, creative freedom is the underpinning for most of my points. I love being able to have the final say over everything from what I write about to who I write it for, to what it looks like when all is said and done, to who I work with. Maybe that just means I have too strong a need to be in control, lol. But I love being involved in the whole process and getting to execute the stories I’ve been given in exactly the way I want.
Indie publishing is also more flexible when it comes to writing across genres. If I really wanted to, I could write high fantasy, dystopian sci-fi, contemporary short stories, and gothic horror all under the same name; no looking for different publishers or flipping my whole brand on its head.
Writing for a Specific Audience
Indie publishing allows me to write for a specific audience, whether or not that audience is the majority that traditional publishers are writing to. I’m not tied to the current popular trends (which is good, because I can’t write fast enough to keep up anyway, lol). On occasion, there’s a happy accident and I end up publishing something in a year it’s really popular (Asian-inspired fantasy is really popular this year, and the book I’m releasing this summer happens to fall under that umbrella also), but I don’t have to plan to write something according to the current trends.
This allows me to cater to more niche (small and specific) audiences: fans of slow-paced fantasy, Christian YA readers, sci-fi readers who prefer high-tech Earth to space, etc. As an indie author, I’m able to write for these readers even in seasons when traditional publishers are writing for someone else.
A Flexible Schedule
I’m a pretty slow writer. Some of my first drafts go quickly, but I take a long time to edit and produce finished books. I’m pretty sure I’d bomb if I needed to have a book ready on an externally-imposed deadline. While other authors are able to crank out 1-8 books per year (kudos to them!) I’m lucky if I can hit that one-per-year “minimum.” Which is why I appreciate being able to work at my own pace as an indie author.
Indie publishing allows me to take what time I need on a book—whether that means finishing two short story collections in a year or spending two years on one novel. I can work as quickly or as slowly as I need for a project, and I can be as consistent or as varied as I need with my release schedule.
A Custom Team
As an indie author, I’m responsible for all the “hats”: writing, editing, formatting, marketing, etc. But I can pass out those hats as I see fit (aside from writing, obviously). If I love the writing and editing processes, I can handle those myself and then hire someone else to do the formatting that makes me want to yank my hair out. I can do all of my own marketing, or I can hire a virtual assistant to help streamline the process.
And what I love most is not that I can get someone to do the things I don’t have the time/energy/interest for, but that I can hire anyone. I get to choose my own team and work with other creators that I know, trust, and want to support. My favorite part of releasing my current book has been getting to work with so many awesome creatives that I’ve known for ages but not had the opportunity to work with before!
I love the indie author community. Not only do I get to hang out with them as fellow authors, but indie authors have amazing opportunities to support each other! Some of those creatives I’ve worked with? Fellow indie authors.
Because indie authors don’t have as much reach with their books off the bat as traditional publishing houses can offer, it makes the need to support each other and share each other’s books even greater. Collaborations, book promotions, resource-sharing, etc. abound in the indie author community, and I love getting to be a part of it.
In putting forth these positives, I don’t intend to deny that indie publishing has its own challenges, nor do I intend to suggest that traditional publishing lacks all of these elements! These are just a few reasons I’ve chosen indie publishing, and why I love it. If you’re trying to decide which publishing path is best for you, I hope this helps!
See? Didn't she explain that so well? Check out the second half of the swap here: https://rmarcher.com/
Have you seen Disney’s Encanto yet? Over Christmas break, I watched it with a friend of mine, and then quickly anticipated the movie’s release on DVD so I could share it with my family.
Every member of the Madrigal family has a unique gift—a magical power that they use to help others in their village. Even their house is magical—with doors, drawers, and floors that open or shift at will. Every Madrigal has their own unique room, given to them when they receive their gift at the age of five.
Every Madrigal . . . except Mirabel.
When Mirabel stepped up for her gift ceremony, her door dissolved. And she’s been stuck giftless in the nursery for the ten years since.
Many members of her family try. They really do. But when it comes to things like family portraits at her younger cousin’s gift ceremony, well, sometimes Mirabel gets left behind.
Naturally, however, Mirabel is the only one who can see that their magical house might not be as strong as they think it to be. Maybe it’s even . . . cracking?
(Spoilers for Encanto to follow.)
The Real Miracle
At the helm of all this is Mirabel’s Abuela. She suffered a huge loss in her past. And at that loss she received the candle that keeps the magic going. Since then, her life has been wrapped around the miracle they somehow received and keeping that miracle perfect and pristine. Which means that Mirabel and all her attempts to be good enough must go.
It’s not just Mirabel, though. Luisa is convinced she has to be strong enough to protect everyone. Isabella believes no one will love her if she’s not perfect. Camilo has no idea who he is, shifting into whoever might fit the situation best and covering it with his humor. Pepa’s emotions come and go as quickly as the weather. Dolores has a lot of things she's not telling anybody. Agustin and Felix grapple with being gift-less outsiders. And Julieta is just trying to keep everybody sane.
That’s a lot of drama. For a long time.
And finally Mirabel can’t take it anymore.
“I’ll never be good enough for you.”
Mirabel says all the things that have been boiling inside for a long time. And those angry words—piled upon all of Abuela’s expectation and the tension that has already been damaging the house—are what finally collapsed the casita.
The candle—the miracle goes out.
Or does it?
Abuela eventually finds Mirabel out at the river. “I’m sorry.” Mirabel swipes her hand across her eyes. “I didn’t mean to hurt us. I just wanted to be something I’m not.”
And finally Abuela opens her eyes. Maybe it was something Mirabel said in that argument. Or maybe it was something in the memories. Or maybe she just really saw Mirabel for the first time.
And she says one of my favorite lines in the movie. Even as their house has crumbled and their gifts have vanished, she says, “The miracle’s not some magic that we’ve got. The miracle is you. All of you.”
When the family worked together, even without their gifts, just valuing what made each of them the miracle they were—that was what brought the candle and the casita back.
Not because they were perfect.
Not because they were strong enough.
Not because they had some gift that proved they were special.
Just because they were . . . them.
Their gifts were wonderful. But they didn’t need them. They were a gift, a miracle, all on their own. Just the way they were.
And it was the most unlikely member of their family that showed them that.
This world constantly wants more. We’re supposed to have it all together all the time. We’re supposed to make everyone proud.
And when we don’t, sometimes we get left behind. Whether by accident or by the purposeful actions of people who are choosing to let their own insecurities keep them captive.
But to the One Who has the final say, it’s not what we can do that’s the gift. It’s not what we can be that’s the gift. Sure, we’ve been given gifts that we can use to serve others and glorify Him. I wouldn’t be here writing this blog if it weren’t.
But if all those gifts and abilities were stripped away, we would still matter.
It’s just us. The one He made us to be.
That’s the miracle. That’s the gift.
You. All of you.
*Christmas is over? Says who! Welcome to the holiday blog tour. You can enjoy my post on the tour below, then catch the previous stop here: https://wanderinginkwells.wordpress.com/2022/01/27/holiday-blog-tour-top-ten-family-favorite-holiday-movies/!*
If you had asked me only about two years ago which Christmas song I hated the most, I would have said Feliz Navidad.
Many factors contributed to this tragedy.
Factor Number One—my siblings and I had an ill-fated recording of Larry the Cucumber singing Feliz Navidad. Complete with a tuba section and the chicken dance. (If you grew up on VeggieTales, you probably know what I’m talking about. :)) As if that was not traumatizing enough, one year, one of my siblings developed an unhealthy obsession with it and would listen to Larry singing Feliz Navidad on repeat for hours. Which meant all of my family listened to it on repeat.
Opening my inner wounds here, guys.
Factor Number Two—not too many years later, Feliz Navidad became that Christmas song that followed me around for the season. You know, that song that somehow is playing in every store and on every station whenever you turn on the radio?
Therefore, my Grinch-like hatred of Feliz Navidad.
I had a case. I mean, I don’t even speak Spanish, so I don’t know what they’re saying. In my experience, if you don’t know what the lyrics mean, you don’t sing them. Most people who record it don’t even know the words—they just kind of mumble their way through the line until they get to “I WANNA WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS.”
This year, however, I heard Feliz Navidad many times.
But I never felt annoyed.
I started working at an elementary school with many Spanish-speaking students.
Some of these students come into our school having never spoken English before.
I think of one boy who came into our school in the middle of first grade and didn’t even know his alphabet. This year, he read a part in his grade’s reader’s theatre without any help.
I think of one girl who came into kindergarten and cried every day at lunch for the first two weeks. She only spoke to her teacher when asked a question or taking a test. This year, she finally spoke to me at recess.
I think of a new kindergartener this year. While she gives everyone the most beautiful smiles, she still hasn’t spoken even to her teacher.
It’s overwhelming. It’s tear-inducing. These kids work so hard to learn. They want it so badly.
I can’t imagine going to school every day and not understanding anything anyone is saying.
When all your teachers and friends speak another language . . . even the simplest phrases mean a lot.
I’ve seen these students’ faces light up when their EL teacher speaks to them in Spanish. Or when a teacher uses even the simplest Spanish phrase, whether or not they say it right. Or when a para tries to pronounce their name correctly (even if said para—ME—fails every time).
This year, our office staff decorated the right side doors with the words “Merry Christmas.” On the other side, they decorated it with the words “Feliz Navidad.”
Even though those Spanish words don’t mean much to me right now, they do to these kids.
Because Christmas is for everyone.
One thing that’s really struck me this Christmas is how Jesus came for everyone. All nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities. Every personality—the shy to the outgoing. The sweet and the annoying. He even came for the ones that He knew wouldn’t believe in Him.
He cares about each person individually, and He did when he came at Christmas. He speaks the simple phrases that mean the most to each of us.
He came for me. He came for you. He came for your classmates. For your family. For the ones who annoy you most.
For overwhelmed Spanish students at an elementary school.
Feliz Navidad means Christmas to students who might not hear it any other way. And Jesus means Christmas to all of us.
And who knows? Maybe by next year, I’ll have learned Spanish and will actually know what those lyrics mean. If I find out, I’ll tell you.
Catch the next holiday blog post here! https://annakatewrites.wordpress.com/2022/01/29/christmas-the-everlasting-joy/
Catch the previous one here (seriously, you should check it out): https://wanderinginkwells.wordpress.com/2022/01/27/holiday-blog-tour-top-ten-family-favorite-holiday-movies/
My all-time favorite Pixar movie is Up. (Fun fact. Save that for surprise trivia later.)
The whole movies centers on Carl Fredericksen, who just wants to be left alone to grieve his wife’s death. His house and everything are exactly the same as they were the minute she died. Except a bustling city has sprung up around said house. And the construction company in charge of that city would dearly love to have Carl’s little piece of land.
When push (a cement mixer that squashes the mailbox he and Ellie painted together) comes to shove (Carl whacks a construction worker over the head with his cane), Carl finds himself ordered out of his house by the judge.
So he does what any normal guy would do.
He ties a gazillion balloons to his house and flies his house to South America to fulfill his wife’s dream. After all, a promise is a promise, right? (He CROSSED HIS HEART.)
Just Carl and Ellie. Heading to Paradise Falls. Alone.
But there was this kid named Russell who was looking for a snipe under his porch. And there was this dog named Dug who’s convinced Carl is his master. And there was this bird named Kevin, who was, well, Kevin. (As if Kevin wasn’t enough, Kevin also happens to be an extremely rare creature being hunted by Carl’s childhood hero.)
Adulting. Need I Say More?
When I graduated from high school, I was extremely introverted and socially anxious. I hadn't had a lot of interaction with kids my age or people outside my family in general due to circumstances outside my control. Just the idea of having to make eye contact with the clerk at Walmart made my heart pick up the pace a little.
Ever since I was little, I craved routine. I wanted the same things to happen at the same time every day.
I hated the unknown. If I had no prior experience with something, fun or not, it was immediately subject to careful inspection.
Which didn’t cause too many problems as a homeschooled high-schooler. I could curl up in my Carl-like world, safe and mostly content.
But then I graduated. And I had to get a job. And a driver’s license. And make conversation with other people without my family around.
There was this job at an elementary school. And there was this young adult gathering at church. And there was . . . ADULTING.
It was awful. For a few days, anyway. I was overwhelmed and frustrated and anxious. I didn’t even talk about my coworkers for almost a year because I was still so nervous every time they tried to even say good morning. True story.
Then something strange happened.
So Many Doors I Never Knew Existed
I discovered I wasn’t as shy as I thought.
Once I had the chance to get out and experience life, I realized my coworkers were very different than I am, but pretty fun. I learned I liked meeting friends for chai or going over to their house to watch a movie (and actually picking out the movie on my own!).
There still were the matters of driving places I’d never gone before, going to appointments alone, and shopping on my own. But even they weren’t quite so bad as I had imagined. (Google Maps helped.)
I still love and need my quiet time at home. But so many doors I never knew existed stood wide open before me.
I smiled looking back at my goals for 2021. I had written that I wanted to become more confident. That’s exactly what happened. And it wouldn’t have happened unless I’d taken a few risks and a few chances.
I can’t imagine what life would be like now if I hadn’t taken any of those adventures, unexpected though they were.
Life doesn’t go the way we plan. Carl’s didn’t. Mine didn’t. 2021 didn’t. 2022 won’t.
And maybe that is a fantastic thing.
Whether or not these unexpected adventures feel wonderful at the time—some do, some don’t—they will lead us somewhere wonderful.
Know how I know? Because God’s steering the ship, and He told me so. “For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
So go tie balloons to your house. (Or don’t, on second thought, that could be a safety hazard. Some things in Pixar just don't work out real well in real life.) Don’t overthink it. Take the doors that God opens for you.
Who knows where you’ll go?
*What unexpected adventures did 2021 bring you? What are your hopes for 2022? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
I somehow made it through my childhood without seeing The Polar Express. It’s one of my new favorites (although A Charlie Brown Christmas is still tops).
The Polar Express is an odd little movie—from the groundbreaking visuals to the whimsical storyline to the fact that Tom Hanks somehow manages to do half the voices. (I’m still trying to figure that one out.)
It’s a little bit of a mystical tale for children. Or maybe it’s children who understand it perfectly and me who doesn’t understand.
The journey begins with a boy just on the verge of not believing in Santa anymore. We don’t know his name or where exactly he lives. He could be anyone.
That night, a train shows up in his yard, tracks and all. “All aboard!”
He follows the call outside into the snow, where he meets the conductor of the mysterious train. But no matter what that conductor says, nothing can convince the boy to climb on. So finally, the conductor shrugs, adds “Suit yourself”, and leaves him to it.
But as the train pulls away, something clicks into place. The boy runs through the snow, grabs hold of the bar on the side of the train, and climbs on.
That’s only the start of the adventure.
The boy at last returns home—after traveling through forests, up mountains, and over poles, and to the North Pole—with the word “Believe” punched into his train ticket.
“Just remember,” the conductor says as the train vanishes into the snow, “the funny thing about trains—it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.”
And then he and the Polar Express are gone, with one final call of “Merry Christmas.”
We can take this scene one of two ways. We can do the decidedly adult route and get all up in arms about how yes, it is very important to know where your “train” is going.
And it is. Not knocking that. It’s very important to know where you’re going in life and after.
But if we were to take that route, we’d have to ignore the fact that these kids knew exactly where they were going. They were going to the North Pole. And they knew that because the conductor told them so.
None of these kids had ever seen the North Pole before. They didn’t know what it was like. They didn’t know if it was all they dreamed of. They didn’t know how to get there.
But none of that mattered.
They decided to get on.
And that mattered more than knowing every last detail of where they were going.
It Doesn’t Matter Where You’re Going . . .
We’re on a train of our own, too—a little thing called life. Sometimes that train brings us hot chocolate or trips to the North Pole, sometimes it brings us steep hills and cracking ice.
We know where we’re going, don’t we? It’s the whole reason we celebrate Christmas. God sent the Person dearest to Him to feel everything we feel. More than that, to suffer beyond imagination and rise again. So we could know where we were going. And so we could know it’s a wonderful place.
Even though we know where we’re going, we’ve never seen it before. We get little tastes of it here (and hint, you get more tastes of it the closer you stay to your Conductor), but at the same time, we know the joy coming is something entirely different than anything we’ve ever expected.
What if it’s not real? What if it’s not all we hoped for? What if we’re ruining everything here?
Sometimes we forget Jesus also came to help us climb aboard the train.
What Matters is Deciding to Get On.
Sometimes we forget that the journey matters just as much as the destination.
Even though I don’t know where it’s going. Even though I don’t have all the details. Even though the tracks are treacherous. Even though it hurts.
And I can get on.
Sometimes Christmas hurts. Hard years make it hard to believe, hard to find wonder in this season we all love so much.
Get on anyways. Hang on for dear life if you have to. Because sometimes the scary roads lead to the most joyful moments.
It’s okay if it takes some time for you to get used to it all--to let go of the bar, come inside the train, even to sit with others in the main compartment. But little by little, you’ll find the more you leave it to the Conductor Who is never late to get you where you need to be, the more those snowflakes of joy blow into your life. And snowflakes add up to a snowfall as we give the hope and joy that we’ve received to others as well.
Like mysterious bells that only ring for those who believe. Does the bell still ring for you? Even if it doesn’t now, it can again.
Heaven is here. Christmas is here. God is here.
So it doesn’t matter where you’re going.
What matters is deciding to get on.
*What’s your favorite Christmas movie? What do you think of The Polar Express? What does your Christmas look like this year? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
*Why are there so many cute and funny puppy Christmas memes? I forced myself to limit it to one.*
Hi, I'm Rachel! I'm the author of the posts here at ProseWorthy. Thanks for stopping by!