After living here for 8 years, I definitely have a long and thorough list of “The Best Things About Athens.” The short list would just be one line that reads “Everything.” 

Two of the things that grace that list occurred this weekend and I’m always captivated, year after year, by how much I love them.

First, the lights downtown. Years ago, while still magical and whimsical in their own right, the lights only lined the downtown street of Clayton. Recently, all of downtown is decked. The large, real Christmas tree on display out in front of City Hall is now flanked by thousands of the twinkling tree lights, a luminescent homage to the beautiful season of Good Tidings and Great Joy. 

The second thing is Lessons and Carols at Redeemer. A traditional Christmas service that’s been performed since the 1800s, the nine lessons and carols detailing the birth of Christ is truly an experience that words can’t do justice. Since it happened last night… mark your calendars for next year. For reals. 

Lately I have felt so loved by my community here in Athens.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a grown-up in a city so far away from family. Holidays amplify this feeling. Funerals amplify this feeling. Confusion and anxiety about the future amplify this feeling.

But I’ve been blessed with great friends and a church that cares about its people. I live in a city where there’s never a shortage of good food to be eaten or people to catch-up with or sunny days to enjoy.

Sometimes I feel guilty for not simply enjoying every second… for trying to micromanage my days and categorize my every thought. For trying to do too much and actually succeeding too little. At times for being too emotional. Other times for being a robot.

At Easter time, I’m reminded that family will always be family, no matter how far they are. But the concept of family is changing for me, also.  Family is not just blood, but it’s those people that you experience life with, cry with, get silly with, worship beside, and create stories with.

I am thankful for you, Family, in all the various forms you manifest yourself.

Last weekend I went on the Women’s Retreat for my church up in the North Georgia mountains. The weekend— in addition to being a sweet time of rest and fun with friends— was filled with truth and incredible wisdom from our speaker on the subject of Finding Contentment. Contentment is something I think any person who is alive struggles with and if they don’t they are lying.  

The truth about contentment is that it isn’t resignation to your situation. It isn’t forcing yourself to be satisfied by your lot. It isn’t even pushing away emotions or focusing only on the good. Contentment is trusting and believing that in Christ, you have all that you need. 

It’s easy for me to get caught up in the Have-Nots and Wants of my life. It’s easy to look around at my friends and even here on the Internet (especially you, Tumblr and Pinterest) and think Whoa, my life would be so much better if I had That Boyfriend and could throw That Kind of Party and wear Those Types of Clothes.  

But that’s just simply not true. Those longings will only be replaced by other things in the future and I’ll constantly be chasing this elusive idea of What It Means To Be Content. Unless I learn that contentment comes from somewhere else. 

…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:10-13

Here’s to learning… 

Last night we had Lessons & Carols at Redeemer— one of my favorite things of the season. 

Last year at L&C, a dear friend of mine sang the most beautiful version of Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.  I think about that song all time now. (We miss you J! Hope Prague is rockin’!) The Redeemer Musicians sang it again last night— equally as beautiful and I’m sure I’ll think about it all year again like I did with Jessica’s version. 

Such a powerful song for the season… 

Come Thou long-expected Jesus

Born to set Thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us

Let us find our rest in Thee.