Christmas

A Christmas Wish For The Introvert 

Oh, hi there. So we’re just coming off of Thanksgiving week. It was a blast. Really, it was. Both of my sisters were in town and it was seriously so fun. We did all of the things for days together as a family. We togethered so hard. But now the week is over and I don’t know how to say this exactly but:

I have togethered too much for the personal safety of myself and others. Thanksgiving has left me straight up out of evens because I just cannot anymore.

And so the following conversation happened between my husband and I last night:

Me: What room are you going to right now?

Husband: I’m not sure? Why?

Me: Because I am not going to go to that room you go to. This is because I love you.

The life of an introvert is a strange one, I tell you. We are a misunderstood bunch. We don’t hate all people and we aren’t just so shy. We have friends. We like good conversation. We will go and we will do and we will probably have a good time. But when it’s all said and done you people make us tired. So tired. And so we go away and spend time by ourselves in the quiet and that’s where we get our energy back. It’s really quite simple. It’s all about where you get your energy- extroverts get it from being around people and introverts get it from being alone. That’s all. We aren’t a bunch of meany rude grumpy grumps. We just need a hot minute for the love.

And so I was sitting in the bathroom yesterday hiding from my toddler thinking about introverts and the holiday season.

[Sidenote: this is exactly how I feel about Christmas parties. And by “Christmas” I mean all.]

And I was like: The holiday season is overwhelming for the average person, yes? There are exactly a bazillion parties to go to and everyone wants to gather for a dinner of sorts. There’s the shopping and the last minute gifts. There’s traveling and there’s staying with family and and and… just wow, so many things. And so as I was hiding from the toddler who is currently in a phase I like to call “koala bear” (think hanging off of a tree every second of the day and I am the tree) and I was just like, it’s hard to be an introvert during the holidays. There. I said it.

And so I have a few wishes for the introvert this Christmas season.

I wish no small talk upon you at all the parties and all the family gatherings. But if you must engage with the small talk, I wish for you the game Loaded Questions. Carry that box around with you at all times and when things get hard (i.e. people ask you what you do or you’re travel plans or if you like cold weather) bust out a, “What would be a terrible name for a celebrity perfume?” #yoface #howsthatforsmalltalk

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I wish for you this killer tee because truth never spoke so hard. Amiright?

 

I wish for you this ostrich pillow. May it be a safe haven for you or a safe word of sorts. May you crawl inside this sucker on airplanes, at family gatherings, or when you are just so done except you’re not at the mall.

 

I wish for you a coloring book. Sit down, dear one, grab some colors and drown out all.the.noise of the holidays one coloring page at a time.

I wish for you a canceled party because:

I wish for you this necklace.

I wish for you the strength to say the following words, “Please go away. I’m introverting” at least once this Christmas. And if you can’t find the strength to utter them, may you just flash this mug in people’s faces.

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Speaking of sweatpants, I wish for you some. May you be granted many nights to just sit at home and wear them. Or may you be granted a Christmas party invitation where the dress code is sweatpant.


I wish for you a friend who invites you to dinner at her house and when you show up this is in front of the door.

I wish for you ghost-like exits from every gathering. May they be quick and clean and may no one notice one single thing.

excuse-leaving-party-funny

 

I wish for you a night to use this candle. Because no one is coming over and it’s okay to like it that way.

I wish for you some quiet time. I want it to rain down quiet time like it rained down manna for the Israelites. I want quiet time to be gifted to you with as much excitement as Oprah used to gift all.the.things. And if you can’t get that precious quiet time I wish for you these bad boys.


There you have it. My Christmas wishes for the introvert. May you strike the perfect balance of together and Bye Felicia.

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To The Ones Who Know Advent

I remember sitting at our kitchen table this time last year and saying to Dustin, “I think I get advent now. Adoption has made me get it. I’ve never longed for something I know is coming so much in life.” This time last year we had just sent all of our papers to Uganda. We were done fundraising. We had paid all the money. We had done all the things. The only thing left to do was go. And so we were just waiting. We were waiting for a court date and we were waiting to travel. We were waiting to meet our son. We were waiting to hold him and know him and love him. We were waiting for someone else to tell us, “You can go to him.” We were waiting and longing and aching for what was to come. We were preparing. We were expectant.

Oh sweet friends sitting at that kitchen table a year ago, if only you knew. So many things can happen in a year. So many damn things.

I’m ready for Jesus to come back. Like, officially really ready. I couldn’t say that before March. I couldn’t say that until I saw evil and darkness with my own two eyes. I couldn’t say that until I held a little boy and then had to walk away from him. I couldn’t say that until I saw broken systems and broken families right in front of me. I couldn’t say that until I experienced injustice. I couldn’t say that until I experienced fighting for a life that I can never make better. I couldn’t say that until my heart was ripped out of my chest. I couldn’t say that until I knew grief and brokenness. What happened in March changed me. It changed me hard. I long for Jesus in a way I’ve never longed for him before. I ache for him to come back; to redeem and restore and make things new. I’m expectant of him and his return, for what that will mean for this world. My heart simply longs for Jesus.

Next week is Christmas and I find myself longing and waiting again this advent season. I’m longing much in the same ways as last Christmas: I’m waiting for a tiny person to be in my arms for good. I’m longing to be a mom. I’m longing to have a family. I’m preparing and expectant and waiting. I’m aching for our story to know redemption.

I’m finding that advent gives me permission. It gives me permission to long and hope for something. It gives me permission to want and wait and expect. Advent allows me to feel the pain of wanting something I don’t have yet. It grants me permission to feel grief, to feel the brokenness of living in this world. Advent allows me to anticipate, anticipate what is coming.

I think what I’m learning right now is that advent is okay. It’s okay to wait. It’s okay to feel pain and brokenness. It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to anticipate what is coming. It’s okay to truly long for something. It’s okay to prepare. It’s okay to sit in the tension of waiting and hoping and hurting and expecting. Living in advent is okay. It’s okay because it’s teaching me that my heart will always long for something more. Living in advent is teaching me that I will know the hard things, the hurting and waiting and aching and longing. Living in advent is teaching me that my heart will not always feel joy.

I think living in advent also prepares your heart for Jesus. We don’t know what it’s like to long until we have longed. We don’t know what it’s like to prepare and wait and expect until we have prepared and waited and expected. We don’t know advent until we know it. I would live through the past year again if it meant that at the end of it all I would long, like truly long for Jesus in a new way. I would do it all again if it meant that all I would want was the hope that Jesus brings. I would do it all over again if it meant that my heart would physically ache for redemption that only Jesus can fulfill.

I kind of think life is just one big advent season, we just only talk about it at Christmas. We’re all just waiting and longing for something more. We’re all expecting that redemption will come. We’re all just aching for the king, the savior, to come back. We’re all just sitting in the tension of longing, waiting, anticipating, and expecting. We’re all just hoping in the not yet. We aren’t supposed to want to stay on this earth. This life was meant to prepare us for something greater. And so you know, if at the end of the all the hard and the longing and the aching, all I can say is: “Come Lord Jesus?” I’ll take it.

Santa vs Jesus

A few nights ago, Dustin and I were talking about deep theological world-changing stuff like, Santa Clause. I saw Santa once when I was a young tot. It was in the middle of the night on Christmas Day, I heard something downstairs, went to see what it was and lo and behold it was Santa. He saw me and said, “shhh.” After learning the dirty truth I did some serious investigating by shining lights in family member’s eyes and asking them intrusive questions about their whereabouts that night and if they owned a Santa costume. I learned nothing which leaves me just plain confused about Santa.  Like, deep down I know he isn’t real but at the same time I’m like, “Yeah, but I’ve seen him.” I mean, it’s whatever.

We were talking about what we were going to tell our kids about Christmas and Santa. Do we let our kids believe in Santa or no? How do we talk about Jesus and Santa? How do we make Jesus cooler than Santa? Because let’s be real, Santa trumps Jesus all day every day. Santa brings you real gifts and Jesus brings you the gift of eternal life. Womp. Womp. (omg I’m kidding but you know what I mean). If our kids don’t believe in Santa, how do we even do that without our kid making other kids cry with the truth and us getting on parent’s hit lists. We didn’t come to any solid conclusions. By the end of the conversation I was denouncing all things Christmas, including the NSYNC Christmas cd (which is blasphemy), and Dustin was defending Santa like they were precious friends and I had just said something super hateful. So we just dropped it and ordered another round of chips and salsa. Ole.

Last year we went rogue and didn’t celebrate Christmas. Well, we celebrated just not per usual. We did three things: served at a homeless ministry on Christmas night, bought nothing and gave financially. It was a good Christmas, if I do say so myself. Dustin and I recieved a black nutcracker and my family fought over where and what we were going to eat post-serving Christmas dinner to homeless people. But seriously, it was simple, refreshing and not about us.

This year we’ve decided to step back into the celebrating Christmas arena. We’re calling it an intentional Christmas and it looks like this:

1. Any gift we buy for anyone will be socially conscious.

2. Dustin and I will be exchanging 3 gifts on Christmas morning- something to wear, something to read, and something to use to bless someone else

*Dustin asked me the other night, “What are we doing again for Christmas gifts? Something borrowed, something blue..?” No. Just no.

3. I downloaded the Holy Bible app on my iphone (because I’m a heathen and didn’t already have it on there) and we’re going through an Advent daily devotional/scripture reading plan. We’re doing “Good News of Great Joy” by John Piper. You are welcome to join us at dinner any night between now and Christmas to discuss what we read that day.

This is how we’re choosing to celebrate Christmas this year. I won’t be surprised if I do indeed get something borrowed and something blue from my husband. So, basically I’ll just let y’all know how this whole intentional Christmas thing goes. Merry Christmas, y’all!

Purchase With Purpose: Part 2

Check out part 1 if you missed it. 

Recently the question was asked, “What if everything you bought for Christmas this year made a difference in the world?” But seriously… what if it did?? 

So, here goes round 2 of sharing the good stuff…

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I’m obsessed with No. 41. I silently stalked No. 41 on Instagram for a while and then randomly one day I got to meet the brains and passion behind the organization. They’re awesome y’all. Based out of Rwanda, they work with young women at an a orphanage, teach them to sew and give back to their community through a feeding program. When you purchase one of their super cute bags you feed one child, for one meal, for one year. They also have stockings that make me want to die they’re so cute. I’m buying three to hang on my mantel this Christmas, don’t even worry. 

http://www.no41.org

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Thistle Farms, y’all. Let me just tell you. It’s based in Nashville and works with women who have survived trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. Thistle Farms is a residential program that provides these women with housing, medical needs, education, therapy, and job training. Their stuff is all natural and wonderful. I got to spend time with a few ladies that graduated from the program a while back and man y’all, talk about some powerful life stories. They were also hilarious and I wanted to get their numbers so we could hang out sometime but I refrained because of the definition of creepy. Alas. They also opened up a restaurant a while back that is fabulous. Thistle Stop Cafe, go there and love it.

http://www.thistlefarms.org

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It’s no surprise that anything Uganda related I will love unconditionally. So, I introduce you to Imani. Imani works in northern Uganda. If you don’t know much about Uganda- northern Uganda borders South Sudan and the Congo. Northern Uganda is a war-torn region where there are child soldiers, refugees, and children forced into brothels, trafficking, and the sex industry. Imani works to alleviate poverty and free women from the sex trade industry by teaching them to make jewelry. They learn a trade, get paid a fair wage, provide for their families, and get freedom. I love it. I have approximately all of their jewelry on my Christmas list this year. Imani is under the Zion Project; which deserves a whole paragraph of its own. I’ll refrain, as long as you’ll promise me to look them up, read what they do, and love them.

http://www.imanilove.com
http://www.zionproject.org

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Exile International. One day I will work for them. I’m not at all joking. They work in the Congo and northern Uganda providing trauma care to former child soldiers and children affected by war through art and expressive therapy. I KNOW, RIGHT!? Coolest thing ever. They also have a sponsorship program for children who have been orphaned or abandoned by war where they feed, house, educate, and give them psychosocial care. Their vision is “empowering children of war to become leaders for peace.” I mean, it just doesn’t get any cooler. All of the proceeds from their EI store goes to continuing the work their doing. If any of you get a job with them before I do, please don’t tell me.

http://www.exileinternational.org

addone

Last one. Promise. If you didn’t catch the post about add ONE, check it out for a more thorough explanation. The gist is simple: when you buy an add ONE product you will help bring 3 kids home from Uganda, China, and Haiti. I mean, I just think it’s really cool. Regardless of whether Dustin and I are a part of it or not.

http://1907apparel.com/addone/

There ya go. More than enough ways to make a difference this holiday season. Have at it.

We Aren’t Doing Christmas This Year

This is Courtney. Dustin says I need to get my own blog. I don’t think I have time for that.

We have decided to do something different this holiday season. The Koctars will not be celebrating Christmas this year. Let me rephrase that, we’re celebrating Christmas just not in the same way. I’m kind of excited about it. We’ve been talking for a while about doing something different for Christmas and I like the plan we’ve devised.

The plan is simple: serve, buy nothing, and give.

There is something in Nashville called The Bridge Ministry. Every Tuesday night under the Jefferson Street Bridge in downtown Nashville you will find hundreds of homeless people gathered. You’ll find yourself a hot meal, some good ole’ worship time, a message, and groceries for the week. Over the last few months we’ve been going to serve once a month at the bridge. I’ve seen Jesus several times under this bridge. I’ve been brought to tears a few times as I’ve watched these people with hands lifted high proclaiming that this is holy ground. I’ve been humbled after what I would deem a horrible day to come and be blessed by the homeless of Nashville. We’re lucky because Christmas falls on a Tuesday this year. You’ll find us and my family, who we are celebrating Christmas with this year, at the bridge Christmas night. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Jesus than by being with family and the homeless.

I’ve been telling my family for a while that we’re not doing Christmas this year. There will be no gifts from us under the tree and I do not want a list of things you might want for Christmas. I’ve been telling them for a while that I don’t want any gifts for us under the tree and we will not be giving them a list of things we might want for Christmas. Despite my best efforts I think there are still a few gifts under the tree for us. I tried, right? I will not be stepping foot into a mall or store to buy anything for anyone. We will not be making a budget for how much we can spend on gifts. The truth of the matter is we don’t need anything. Yes, there are several things I want but upon further review I don’t need them. There is such relief in not having to buy anything this year. We might not be the favorites on Christmas morning but I think I’m okay with that.

If this were any other year we would be buying gifts. We’d have to create some sort of budget and decide how much we could spend on each person. We’d have to decide how much we could spend on each other and go from there. This year we’ll probable still create some sort of budget and decide how much we would have spent on each person but it won’t be for the same purpose. We’ve decided this year to give the money that we would have spent on gifts to somewhere else. Our place of choice is Know Think Act (surprise, surprise) but it just as easily could have been anywhere else. So instead of getting gifts this year our family will know that our friends over in Uganda are getting mosquito nets or supplies for the school. Once again, we may not be the favorites this year on Christmas morning but I really think I’m okay with that.

We’ve been challenged over the past year to live differently. I’m learning that living differently doesn’t look the same to everyone. This is how we’re choosing to celebrate Christmas different this year. Will you join us?

Here are some of our resources for celebrating Christmas differently:

http://www.adventconspiracy.org/

http://www.knowthinkact.com/needs.php

http://www.projectr12christmas.org/

Do you have any other resources you can share with us?

This Is Africa in America

The week we left for Uganda we also moved. Our lease was up the day we left the country, so we put everything in boxes, dropped it off, and left. If you’ve ever moved before you know that there is a cleaning out process that goes along with moving. As you pack, you put stuff you want to keep in boxes and you put other stuff in the “Goodwill pile.” In the midst of work, moving, and packing for a trip our Goodwill pile never got dropped off.

Upon arriving in Uganda we had to make the 4 hour journey from the airport to the village we were staying in. There is one paved road that runs from the capital city all the way through Uganda to the Congo. As we drove, we passed by village after village. To some extent they all looked pretty similar. Some seemed bigger than others but they all had some of the same characteristics. We passed by one village in particular where there were tons of people. There were little sections of dirt where people were sitting and they were surrounded by clothes, shoes, and just stuff. We asked what was going on and found out that today was this village’s market day. Apparently every village has a market day once a week. On any given day you can find a market day somewhere. We asked what they were selling and learned that most people just bring all of their possessions to try to sell. You might find some real gems and some new stuff but for the most part you’ll find a lot of used goods, if you will. I kind of thought the idea of market day was weird, sad and great all at the same time. It’s whatever, this is Africa.

Just as I thought I was done with my feelings about market day we were informed of something that makes me feel sick to my stomach if I really think about it for too long. Remember my Goodwill pile from earlier? I take that pile to Goodwill. Goodwill goes through it and decides what they want to keep and what they don’t. What they decide is not good enough to sell at Goodwill; they put in pallets and ship over to Africa. The people in Africa then have to purchase those clothes for themselves and for their families on a market day. Those clothes that I could have essentially just thrown away, the ones that would make me pretty mad if I had to buy. The clothes that probably have some pit stains, maybe a little tear somewhere, look discolored from all the washes, and just look worn. Hear me when I say, I have nothing against Goodwill. I just don’t like that that’s what happens. It doesn’t sit well with me. It doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t feel like the gospel is supposed to look like people buying my gross clothes.

But once again they aren’t just people anymore. It isn’t just Africa. It’s the place that I have fallen in love with. The place that has rolling hills, red dirt that won’t come off my shoes, it’s beautiful and green, and it has the sweetest fruit I’ve ever eaten. It’s the place that has William who wants to be a journalist someday, Christine who has the best dance moves and a smirk that kills me, Esther who has the poker face of a champion, Adolf who is going to be a heart breaker when he grows up, and Ana who I love with all of my heart.

I ended up coming home and taking those bags of clothes and shoes to Goodwill. I didn’t really know what else to do with them. Some of those clothes I wish I could give to my new friends. I have a feeling those are the clothes that won’t make it to Africa. It’ll be the ones that I would be embarrassed to give them let alone charge them for.

Dustin and I have decided to do something about it. It’s not a lot but we wanted to invite you to join us. Our friends at the orphanage in Uganda get new shoes every Christmas. It’s their one pair of shoes for the entire year. To buy about 70 kids new shoes cost $800. That’s how much we write a check for every single month for rent. There are 14 weeks until December 1 and we want to get those kids their new shoes for Christmas. I’m kind of scared to invite people in on this. There are a hundred “what if’s” that make me want to throw up when I think about them. What if nobody cares, what people don’t give anything, what if we don’t end up with $800, what if people think we’re weird/stupid/crazy? Then God reaffirms me with, what if all of those things happen? But what if they don’t? What if people do give, what if they do care, what if they just need an opportunity, what if you get more than $800, what if you just do what I’ve told you and leave the rest to me?

We’ve decided to do just that. Do what God’s told us and leave the rest to him. I know that he is bigger than $800. I know that when he moves, he moves big and awesome things can happen. So, we’re calling it the “Christmas Shoes Project” and you can check it out here, on Know Think Act (which we’ll tell you about another time, this post just got real long real fast). As we figure out what living in America looks like post Africa, this is going to be our starting point. It’s what a friend referred to and I’ve started to adopt as our life motto… this is Africa, in America.