Cranking Up Christmas Cheer

I have decided that it’s going to be the best Christmas ever.

Last week, I realized that I was being a bit of a Scrooge. December birthday + finals can cause the holidays to lose some of their magic. I was excited(ish) about Christmas, but more preoccupied with passing my classes and letting everybody know my opinion on combined birthday/Christmas gifts.

Then, I decided to stop being lame and transformed myself into an actual elf.

This playlist helped.

Looking for some holiday tunes to dance around the kitchen to while you bake cookies or enjoy while you wrap presents? I’ve got you covered.

  • The Oh Hellos’ Family Christmas Album by The Oh Hellos. This album only has four songs, but they’re all phenomenal, combining a storytelling vibe with lots of acoustic, folksy instruments and large-group vocals. They feature an aggregate of verses and refrains from classic carols, mashed together to create new, amazing pieces. I recommend this album to everyone, because I recommend all of The Oh Hellos to everyone, but especially to people looking for Christmas music that’s upbeat and/or has some great builds.
  • We Have a Savior by Hillsong Worship. If you wanted more folksy, here you have it. We Have a Savior features more upbeat, folksy Christmas tunes, with a mix of old carols and new favorites. The entire album proclaims the message of its title: Christmas is a celebrating that we have a Savior, and His name is Jesus. Favorite songs: “We Have a Savior,” “Born Is the King (It’s Christmas),” and “O Come Let Us Adore Him.”
  • “O Holy Night” by The Hunts. Who knew there was so much folksy Christmas music out there? This version of “O Holy Night” is more upbeat than most, featuring a lot of violins and cool stringy instruments as well as a killer female vocalist. It’s a fun new twist on a classic carol that you should definitely check out.
  • Christmas by Michael Buble. Michael Buble is the voice of Christmas okay. This entire album is the epitome of holiday spirit and it’s impossible not to feel giddy with Christmas cheer when you listen to it. Which you should.
  • “Hallelujah” by Eddie Kirkland with North Point Music. This song off North Point’s Christmas: Let There Be Light album is one of my faves. It’s overflowing praise and joy mixing the Hallelujah chorus, classic Christmas lyrics, and crazy rad instrumentation. It truly makes me want to “rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come.” (All of the North Point Christmas albums make me want to, actually.)
  • “O Come O Come Emmanuel” by Phil Wickham. Phil Wickham’s version of this beautiful carol wins the award for my favorite Christmas song ever. The lyrics of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” are already gorgeous, a message of crying out to God and finding hope in Him. Phil Wickham’s voice and the builds in this song (I love me some builds) make it a really fantastic version and a really fantastic way to remember what Christmas truly means: Emmanuel, God with us.

I hope these make you want to crank up the Christmas cheer! Let me know some of your favorite holiday tunes in the comments. Merry Christmas (almost-ish)!

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Finally, Not Planning

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.”

-James 4:13-16

I’ve talked about the college process a lot on here. There are a lot of different parts to this process, from standardized tests to essays to lots of submit buttons, but by far my least favorite part is the “I don’t know”s.

Where are you going to school next year? I don’t know.

What do you want to study? I don’t know.

What do you want to do after college? I don’t know.

I have ideas, canned answers just for the sake of avoiding those three little words: I don’t know. Such and such are my top four schools, this is probably what I’ll study, I think I’d like to have a job, and suddenly, everyone thinks I at least have an inkling of an idea about my future. Fake plans are definitely the easy way out.

The other week, I sat down for coffee with my small group leader and the conversation steered this direction. When I told her how uncomfortable I was with the “I don’t know”s, she asked me why. I realized: jealousy. It feels like everyone has their life together but me. It feels like I need to have the ten-year plan that ends with marriage, two kids, a steady career, and a white picket fence, because everyone else has that. It feels like there are all these expectations I need to meet that everyone else is meeting except me. It feels like not knowing by November seals my doom.

As I underwent this epiphany, she encouraged me by saying that the ten-year plans – the ones that get super specific and confident – leave very little room for God. If I know months in advance that I’m going to go to School A and get Major B and get Job C, where is God going to come in and shake things up a little bit? What if He tries and I’m so obsessively following my map that I miss His?

I may know very little right now, but I do know that I don’t want to miss God’s plan for my life.

The tricky part of this is that, right now, God’s plan for my life consists of three little words: I don’t know. It consists of me sitting here with open hands, waiting for letters from colleges in the mail. It’s me not having any clear, satisfying answers to the Big Three Questions. It’s trusting that He knows what I don’t.

I am learning to give myself the freedom to not have a plan. This is so contrary to my nature it’s not even funny. This summer, I started using a very intense planning system called the bullet journal, and I’ve been using it all school year. When friends want to spontaneously have fun, I need to take a minute, because spontaneity has its time and its place and that time and place are never and nowhere. (Just kidding. Sort of.) There have been weeks in the past couple months when I’ve been so busy planning ahead that I think it’s Thursday on a Tuesday (and let me tell you, realizing that it’s Tuesday instead of Thursday sucks). I am a planner in every sense of the word, and I’m very serious about it.

But instead of rigorous scheduling, I’m currently practicing the art of not knowing. And honestly, I really do think it’s an art, because “I don’t know” is about the least satisfying answer to give anyone. But it’s the answer I’ve got right now. God knows what I don’t, and I’m learning to be okay with that. Even better – I’m learning to be stoked about that. Because wherever I end up, whatever I study, whatever I do: it’s going to be awesome, because He’ll be there the entire time.

Review: The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley

The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley follows Lydia Bennet of “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” a modernized vlog-style adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Epic Adventures picks up immediately after the end of “LBD” as Lydia applies to college, becomes interested in psychology, and moves on from the terrible events with George Wickham. It’s full of character growth with a standalone plot line and lots of laughter. I give The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet 8/10 stars for excellent characterization, being reunited with all my old friends, and generally all the feels.

Things I Liked:

  • The Ly-di-ah, a.k.a. the adorbs, is back! I was so proud of her growth as she learns to be confident in herself, wants to help people, and works on her relationships. Overall, my favorite part of reading The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet and The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet was definitely that it felt like being reunited with lots of old friends. I just really, really, really love “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries,” and both of these books were an incredible way to keep experiencing one of my favorite stories in an entirely new way.
  • I loved reading from Lydia’s POV. Though her voice isn’t quite as strong as Lizzie’s in The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, it’s still present, funny, quirky, and very Lydia. The writing in Epic Adventures also has phenomenal quotes, including…
    • “Here’s the thing about good guys. They don’t tell you they’re good guys.”
    • “… strangely connected to strangers telling secrets that weren’t really theirs.”
  • The setting in Epic Adventures is really strong, and I enjoyed every change in location. From Books Beans and Buds to the idyllic New York apartment rooftop, each place contributes really well to the plot and Lydia’s attitude and character development.
  • The failure essay is very important to me. I was waiting to read Lydia’s essay about her failure and learning from it for the. entire. book. And it was so worth it. I was actually crying when I read it; that’s how proud I was of her.
  • Lydia stands up to stupid George Wickham and it is the best thing ever. This comes in a close second to her standing up to stupid Cody (which is also the scene of one of my favorite quotes from the book: “I’m Lydia freaking Bennet. And I’m done being lame.”).
  • The Mechanics are a really great musical addition! I enjoyed all of the concert scenes, especially when Mary has to join in on bass and Lydia is enthusiastically cheering her on.
  • I just really love Lydia Bennet.

Things I Didn’t Like:

  • Epic Adventures was just a tad predictable. I called it that Cody is bad news and that the book would end with Lydia’s failure essay. The whole thing certainly wasn’t predictable (I definitely didn’t think we’d be seeing any more of George or that we’d go to New York), but those parts were pretty easy to figure out.

Favorite Character:

  • In case it isn’t obvious… Lydia Bennet. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat.

That’s it for The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet! If you haven’t already, I strongly recommend you do the following things in the following order:

  1. Read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
  2. Watch “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.”
  3. Read The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick.
  4. Read The Epic Adventures of Lydia Bennet by Kate Rorick and Rachel Kiley.
  5. Fall into the inevitable pit of awesome that is the literary inspired web series fandom. Good luck!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see y’all soon with a new post!