Advent 11-30-15: Prepare

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight–indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.

Malachi 3:1

2015 is the year of being prepared for Christmas. Not just that I have nearly all my shopping done. Or the fact that I have the tree up (nothing else at the moment). Or even the fact that I’ve calendared all my holiday shenanigans on my iPhone.

I am prepared to fully experience the holiness of Christmas.

Prepare - Feature

Every night I put effort into preparing for bed. First I put on my pajamas and my warm slippers to insulate the soles of my feet from the cold bathroom tile. Then I wash my face, brush my teeth, and apply lip balm and hand cream. One that’s done, I put my phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode and settle in for a good night’s sleep. I could easily go to bed without the rituals, but it would be noticed. I wouldn’t sleep as well because something would be missing.

I’m seeing this holy season as kind of the same thing. I can just wing it and show up on Christmas day, but something would be missing. Instead I’m intentionally preparing myself for the event by reading specific scriptures, praying specific prayers, and listening for God. Already Christmas is feeling more reverent than it has in years past.

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Advent Season 2015

Advent Season 2015

I like the holidays. Not as much as some, more than others. But I always find the lack of Christ in Christmas disturbing. It seems no matter how hard I’ve tried over the last several years, the Christmas season has been more secular than holy. I get sucked into the business of decorating, cooking, purchasing, and whatnot, with very little celebration of Jesus’ birth and what that means to me as a Christian.

Every year it’s the same and by the time the presents have been opened I feel a little deflated because, no matter how much I say, “Christmas isn’t about the gifts and the food or even the family,” that’s exactly what it’s about.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly (and obviously) not against all the frivolities of the season. I actually enjoy cooking the special meal and pretty trees and decor make me happy and being together with family? Well, that’s just the best. But there’s so much more to it.

This year is different. I’m not working  and I don’t have little kids. That goes a long way towards my ability to study and ponder and really consider this advent season.

My friend, Julie, knows how much I like to take pictures and she directed me to Alive Now, a resource of The Upper Room. Alive Now is sponsoring an Advent Photo-a-Day challenge. Each day I receive an email with the advent word of the day and several scriptures and other tools to guide my reflections towards the coming birth of Christ. I then take a picture that represents that word and post it to Instagram.

There are only so many words you can type in Instagram so I’m going to post them here at Jenster’s Musings as well. And maybe, if you’re sucked into the business of the season, you’ll find a little holy in the secular.

On the Third Day of Christmas…

16 Days of Christmas

backyardI sat outside and read. And took pictures like this and texted them to friends who were complaining about a 2-hour snow delay and the unexpected extra snow this morning.

I know what you’re thinking. My lack of compassion is as glaring as the bright and warm sun that’s shining through the trees in this picture.

You would be right.

There is a walking/riding trail right outside the neighborhood here so we went for a two mile walk this afternoon

Irvine WalkingI learned two things on this adventure.

  1. Katie can talk and walk at the same time for at least two miles.
  2. My bladder is good for two miles. Just.

It was a delightful adventure on this third day of Christmas.

Stay tuned for more adventures to come.

How Many Days of Christmas?

16 Days of Christmas

The Jenster Clan ditched the winter wonderland of the East Coast and hopped a plane (or two) for SoCal to spend Christmas with Mr. Jenster’s side of the family. Since every day is an adventure when you’re West side it should make for some fairly decent blog fodder. “Fairly decent” meaning same mundane but with a change of scenery.

So I give you the 16 Days of Christmas.

On the first day of Christmas…

In N OutWe left 6+ inches of snow on our sidewalks (which was shoveled by fabulous neighbors) and winged our way to Irvine. Both legs of the flight were without incident and, in fact, it was one of the most uneventful days of travel I remember having.

To celebrate we went to In-N-Out and ate outside.

On the Second Day of Christmas…

Mr. Jenster and I woke up at 5:30 AM which, when you think of it, was actually sleeping in because it was 9:30 AM East Coast time. It was a great way to start the vacation because we had a super lazy morning.

Oh. And get this. I only brought one pair of jeans because it’s warm. Like hot, warm.

Winter Weather

So this afternoon a few of us went to the beach to wiggle our toes in the sand and take pictures and stuff like that.

Laguna Becah Collage

Oh, how I miss my ocean. I don’t really think about just how much until I’m here, breathing in the salty air and listening to the waves crash along the shore. It’s an instant infusion of peace and balance and, for me, proof of a wildly imaginative creator.

I would love to make a trip to my beach (not just my ocean), but if it doesn’t happen this time I guess Laguna Beach will just have to do.

Fourteen more days of adventure!

Anniversary Trip – Part 3

[Written Thursday, April 18]

When last I typed we were sitting in Starbuck’s and contemplating another try at the park we couldn’t find to see waterfalls. We found our way to the park. It was the same one we’d stopped at, but maintenance crews were in front of the trail entrance so we didn’t see it. That and the trail entrance was not marked well at all.

I won’t bore you with all the details. Just most of them. I’m hoping the pictures will complete the image of the incredibly steep grassy hill we had to climb just to get to the trail. Oh.My.Gosh! I felt like a billy goat and I’m pretty sure I bleated a few times.

Picture 1

Nope. The picture doesn’t do the climb justice. It just looks pretty. But it wasn’t.

Thankfully we both had really good hiking boots on.

Picture 5

Once on the trail we made our way up to the first lookout so I could get a picture of a waterfall.

Picture 2

Do you see it?

Yeah. Me either. Well, maybe a little bit.

It was pretty disappointing. But we endeavored to persevere and hiked on up to the next lookout. I really liked this lookout because: A) there were chairs; and B) there were benches.

Picture 3

Okay. I realize there is not a picture of the benches, but I was actually sitting on a bench when I took the second photograph so it’s kind of the same thing.

There was also a waterfall.

Picture 4

If it wasn’t for all the nature around in the form of trees we would have been able to see it much better. But it was still better than the first one. So my “view a waterfall” criteria was fulfilled.

Did we turn around and go back? Of course not! We still had some geocaching to do. This geocaching is a dangerous business. We had to break the rules and walk past the “Park Boundaries” signs. But that’s how Todd and I roll. We’re rebels that way.

picture 6

We looked and looked and looked some more with no luck. So we headed back to the trail, but on a whim Todd thought to look one more place and voila! There it was.

Picture 7

Thankfully the car was parked downhill. At one point I told Todd we should just roll down the grass like when we were kids and he kindly offered to hold my camera, but I decided I’m too dignified and mature to do that. By the time we climbed into Raven (that’s the name Katie has given her) we were hungry so we drove down to Naples for something meaty like a cheeseburger or steak! We ended up eating nachos at the cabin. And they were delicious!

At the beginning of the week the weather people said today would be rainy. It was not. Windy, yes. Rainy, no. So after several rounds of Rummikub on Todd’s iPad, a game that I am NOT addicted to, we decided to head back up to the north end of the lake and hit a few more geocaching spots on the way. So we did. And we found two more. Even better than the two geocaches we found was the restaurant that served mozzarella sticks and cheeseburgers after.

And this abruptly ends our third installment of the Anniversary Trip

Anniversary Trip – Part 2

[Written Wednesday, April 17]

I’m currently writing from Starbucks in Canandaiga. It has wifi. We needed a fix. That and some Starbucks goodness.

So we didn’t hit any antique stores yesterday. Oh, we saw them. They’re everywhere. It was overwhelming. I felt like a kid at Disneyland with no E tickets. Which won’t make a lick of sense to a lot of people, but trust me when I say it’s not a good thing.

You see, it’s like this. There is a particular item I am looking for. It’s not a small, put-it-in-a-bag item. But it’s not a huge, we-need-a-moving-truck item either. I’m looking for a washstand or a small cabinet to use as a vanity in our powder room. Our new car is significantly smaller than the old car and I realized, much to my dismay, that even a small cabinet or washstand won’t fit in the car with everything else we brought with us. So why even look? What if I found the perfect washstand? What then? I have a budget and even if it was within the budget, the shipping would probably bust it.

Todd thought he had escaped unscathed. Antique shopping isn’t anywhere on his list of top 5,000 things to do.  But he only dodged the bullet this trip. Pennsylvania has no lack of antique stores either… (this is the part where I laugh maniacally, but I don’t know how to write that.)

Yesterday was rainy and we had a very lazy morning. We finally got out and drove up Canandaiga lake and found our way to The Muar House Cafe and a delicious lunch.

The Muar House Cafe

It was rather windy and cold and, frankly, a beautiful day for pictures. So I got some.

Cloudy Lake

We also went to Wal-Mart. Yes. You read that right. We came to upstate New York so we could go to Wal-Mart. Actually, we needed some groceries and a particular computer cable and we thought we could kill both those birds with one Super Center stone. We got the groceries, but no cable.

And then we stopped in here. What we’ve come to think of as “Our” Starbuck’s. We needed the wifi to download a couple books on my Kindle and to look up some information. Todd also wanted to download a couple carving videos.

After our adventures in town we headed back to the cabin. It was cold! But a lovely cold. The kind of cold that requires flannel pants, a hot drink and a cozy fire. So that’s what we did.

This morning we woke up when we woke up to a beautiful blue sky with only a tiny smattering of white clouds here and there. We decided to go find some waterfalls for my camera and found this overlook with a great view of the beautiful blue lake on our way.

Overlook View

It was also a geocaching cite so we did a little investigating and found this:

Overlook Cache

The coin is a marker that the particular geocacher (Medicine Man) puts in all his finds. He’s a pharmacist and avid Lord of the Rings fan. The writing on the back of the coin – or maybe the front – is in Elvish. (How does one know which is the front and which is the back of a coin?)

After our little interlude at the overlook we carried on. We had taken the map we found in the cabin, but it’s one of those exaggerated cartoony maps and we couldn’t find the park we were looking for. So we just kept going and made our way back to Wal-Mart. Because we really like Wal-Mart. And because Todd bought two pair of shorts yesterday but when he took them out of the bag at the cabin he realized they were extremely large and not at all the size indicated on the hangers. So he ran in to exchange them and then we ended up here at our Starbuck’s.

Taking advantage of wifi, I was able to see where we went wrong with the directions to the park with the 1.2 walking trail and three waterfalls. It’s now 3:30 and who knows what we’ll do. Maybe we’ll go back or maybe we won’t.

Anniversary Trip – Part 1

Todd and I went away last month and I wrote a little something for the blog each day with the intent of posting when we got home. As you can see from the date of the entry, I didn’t do it. Better late than never?

[Written Tuesday, April 16]

Todd and I are off celebrating our 25th anniversary. Technically we won’t be married for a quarter of a century until June, but June is full of things like Katie’s graduation and college orientation and a visit from Todd’s parents and the like. Try as we may, we just couldn’t figure out a good time to go away in June.

For a long time we talked about going to Scotland for our 25th anniversary, but our 25th anniversary year is full of things like Katie’s graduation and college orientation and a visit from Todd’s parents and the like. So we did the next best thing. We took a trip to the Fingerlakes region of New York. It’s actually kind of like Scotland. It’s hilly and mountainous and green with a creek and right now it’s raining. When I think of Scotland I think of hilly and mountainous and green with a creek. And rain. So yeah. It’s just like we’re there. Except people drive on the right hand side of the road here.

As I type this I’m sitting in a screened enclosure that overlooks the green going down to a rather boisterous brook called Trout Run. A tree covered hill slopes up from the other side of the creek and there’s a trail that leads back into the woods. It’s overcast and cool and rainy and peaceful and beautiful and refreshing. I love the sound of the wind in the trees and the fall of a gentle rain. And the smell? Fughettaboudit. Like heaven in a spray can, especially when you throw in the scent of coffee wafting from the cup on the table next to me.

Todd is taking his first nap of the day on the comfy sofa next to the cozy fireplace while Jack Johnson is playing on his computer. I think I may finish this up and go curl up in the overstuffed chair for my first nap of the day.

I am enchanted.

Trout Run Cabin

Another great thing about this week and where we are is that we have no cell phone service and no internet connection. I had already determined to turn off the wi-fi mode on my computer, but now I can’t be tempted to check out Facebook for a “few minutes”.

The drive up here was gorgeous and it was a beautiful day for a road trip. And you know me. I love me a good road trip! I always find it interesting when traveling either north or south this time of year to see the difference in the vegetation. Trees were in bloom in Virginia last week when Todd and I went to see Taylor, but not so in Pennsylvania. This last week things just seemed to pop open, but the farther north we drove yesterday the less in the way of blooms we saw. It will be interesting to see how that has changed when we leave on Friday.

Our plan for these five days is a lot of nothing. It’s supposed to rain most of the time we’re here and that’s okay. Yesterday we were able to take a nice little hike through the woods across the creek and I got tons of pictures. We need to get to the grocery store at some point today and I’m hoping to hit an antique shop or two in the process. I figure a rainy day is as good as any to look at old furniture.

Trout Run

As of right now, tomorrow is supposed to be sunny so we hope to get some geocaching in and see some waterfalls. Thursday is another day of rain and thunderstorms so we’ll just hang out here at the cabin with a warm fire going all day and Friday we’ll head for home.

Of course, by the time you read this we will already be home. I’m just not keen on advertising that we’re going to be gone for a week while Katie is home alone. That and I can’t post anything from a place with no wi-fi.

So you’ll just have to check back tomorrow to see if things actually went as planned…

Pretty Multiplied

There’s this great travel blog I started following a couple of months ago. Alisa of Where’s My Backpack writes a wistful travelogue full of vibrant pictures and eloquent descriptions of the amazing places she goes.  I say wistful because that’s always how I feel when I read it.  I’m a lot little jealous.

Alisa also does a fun photo challenge called the Weekly Travel Theme. This week’s theme is Multiples and I’ve decided to play along.

So from my favorite Island Girl vacation and without further ado, I give you multiple…

Stairs

DSC_0102 A very hilly section of Seattle

 

Lights

DSC_0016-1The original Starbuck’s, Pike’s Place, Seattle.

 

Handblown Glass Ornaments

DSC_0129

Farmer’s Market, Pike’s Place, Seattle

 

Sand Dollars

DSC_0341

Whidbey Island, Washington

 

Lavendar Bunches

DSC_0535

Lavendar Wind Farm, Coupeville (Whidbey Island), Washington

YarnsDSC_0559

Lavendar Wind Farm Market, Coupeville, Washington

 

Corbels

DSC_0624

An old house in Coupeville, Washington

Cloves of Garlic

DSC_0759A quaint little deli in Coupeville, Washington

 

Posts

DSC_0786Whidbey Island, Washington

What I didn’t show are the multiple smiles, laughs and contented sighs from that trip. Guess we should do it again so I can try to capture all that, too.

Mud and Flowers and Christmas Trees

Todd’s folks are visiting from California so we took them to Longwood Gardens yesterday. I had very carefully chosen the day based on the weather and the kids’ busy schedules and bought our tickets ahead of time. While Tuesday was cool and rainy, yesterday was clear. And cold. And windy.

We drove an hour south through some very pretty landscapes, found the gardens and followed the instructions to the parking lot. Remember that rainy Tuesday I mentioned? Well it turned the grassy areas of the lot into a gooey, muddy mess. We had to cross that muddy mess to get to the busses that would take us to the gardens. They had put straw down and I heard Todd say, “Be careful. It’s muddy.” So I was walking and pulling on gloves and stuffing jacket pockets with stuff and holding onto my camera and being careful – all at the same time. Suffice it to say the straw was useless in my case. I started to slide and down I went, but not quickly. It seemed to take forever before I was lying down in the mud like a pig in slop. As my left foot started to slip I kind of left my body and watched it happen to someone else in slow motion. And when I finally landed I let an unladylike expletive escape. Because 1) I looked anything but ladylike, all sprawled out in the mud; and 2) what I was wallowing in looked like what I said.

So back to the car I went to clean up as best I could. One of the parking attendants got some paper towels out of his truck for me and Todd gave me his treasured microfiber cloth. Precious got a little muddy, but thankfully nothing serious.

As I mentioned, it was cold and very windy. Thankfully a good portion of what we saw was inside a huge conservatory. When we left the protection of the structure we thought it may have actually warmed up a bit. Turns out there was just a lull in the wind. The best part about Longwood Gardens at Christmastime happens when the sun goes down and the gardens and trees are lit up. It was still light outside so we decided to go eat inside where it was warm. Once warmed and fortified, we perused the gardens and ended our evening with a viewing of the fountain show.

I didn’t want to bog down the blog by posting a ton of pictures, so if you click on the picture it will take you to a Photobucket slideshow.

Longwood Gardens Slideshow

When we got home from our fun adventure we all changed into comfy, cozy jammies. And the perfect end to a perfect day? (Except Katie filled hers so high there was no room for marshmallows or whipped cream.)

Photography Lessons Learned

I shot a wedding with my friend, Gail, yesterday. Every time I take pictures with her I learn something and yesterday was no exception. Here’s what I learned:

Lesson Number One

    When you try on more than one size of the same shoe at a “self-serve” shoe store, make sure you put the correct shoes back in the correct box.

One of the first lessons I ever received from Gail a couple years ago was to wear comfortable shoes when shooting a wedding because you’re on your feet for several hours. Friday I realized that my “wedding shoes” were no longer feasible and I would need a new pair. Yesterday morning – with plenty of time so I wasn’t rushed – I stopped by Kohl’s for a new pair of Naturalizers. I was so happy to have all my ducks in a row and had the rest of my time planned out perfectly. I would be ready to go by 2:05 and Gail would pick me up at 2:15. This perfect plan hit a glitch when I realized at 2:00 that I had two left shoes in the box – one a size 8 and one a size 8 ½. I beat myself about the head and shoulders with the larger of the two and called Gail in a panic.

“I have to run back to Kohl’s to switch out one of my shoes and you’re supposed to be here in like 15 minutes so if you want to just tell me where the wedding is I’ll drive out there myself so you’re not late!”

After she stopped laughing about my debacle she said she would just meet me at Kohl’s and we’d leave from there. I ran to Customer Service, told the lady the moronic thing I’d done, ignored her laughing, left her my shoes, ran back and grabbed the other box and we sorted it out while a pregnant Gail ran to the bathroom and then we were on our way.

Lesson Number Two

    Don’t buy a new bra in a brand or style you’ve never worn before and then wear it to a wedding shoot.

Not only did I buy a pair of shoes, I also bought a pair of cups. Cups that, I only discovered after wearing for a while, did not like to stay where they were supposed to. I had to keep running to the restroom to resituate the undergarment and it was highly annoying. It brought back memories of fake boobs before my reconstruction.

Lesson Number Three

    Shooting a wedding is beyond exhausting.

This isn’t really a new lesson. I already knew it, but had sort of forgotten. Yesterday was hot and we were running around a lot and I don’t believe either one of us drank as much water as we should have. I don’t know about Gail, but I woke up achy and headachy and feeling really miserable. So much so that I forewent church this morning.

Note to self – get into better shape and drink much more water next time.

Shoes, brassier and dehydration notwithstanding, it was a spectacular day and tons of fun.