heaven meets earth

this year it has been especially hard for me to get into the christmas spirit.

It’s not that there was some road block deliberately keeping my heart from feeling the soaring joy and cheer of yuletide. It hasn’t been there, which isn’t necessarily abnormal for me. But it’s been frustrating, nonetheless.

So I’ve been forcing myself into jazz christmas playlists, and trying to glean joy from the advent scriptures, and basically attempting to scrounge up cheer from whatever parts of me that I can.

So it’s Christmas Eve morning. I’m running on approximately 5 hours of sleep. I’m harboring a lot of teeth-clenching frustrations from random and oddly trivial things. and I put on my most favorite album, which happened to be a hard choice to make for my heart, and decided to close my eyes.

This song begins to play and my brain, associates words in the song with apparent text from the word, is full – thousands of thoughts, a picture.

A room. Except nothing is truly perceivable. At the foot of the image there is a gold floor, engraved and embossed and shining. Beyond that, only light. Beyond the gold floor is blinding, spot-inducing, earth-shattering, gaze breaking light. And the person standing and seeing this, falls to their knees. But doesn’t lower their head, maintains a steady and strong gaze at the light that seemingly drowns them. There is no movement towards or away, just a stolidity, a steadfastness to the gaze towards the mystery of the light. The person begins to weep. But never looks away.

I can feel something in my heart twist and turn and move, and all I can think of is this:

Christ was nailed to a tree, and with blood dripping from hands, feet, and head, his last breath killed the stigma of sin, washing away our marks of walking in deliberate disobedience to God.

And when he rose again, he defeated sin, death, the curse, and even Satan. Our salvation was accomplished and he invites us to receive this salvation through faith in Him. That invitation beckons us to bask in the glory of the throne room, in the presence of God.

And my brain doesn’t really think about the birth, just the sheer idea that because of Jesus’ life, those who believe in his name are able to walk in communion with him.

But in-between the first and second service, the first and second glory-filled moment, there are a lot of frustrations. Grumblings. Annoyances. But they disappear when the pastor starts talking at the evening service, service number 2.

“I think there must have been unaccompanied rejoicing in the courts as the events unfolded in Bethlehem.”

And he mentions how perhaps the veil must have been was moved back, and how if that were the case, the separation between between those bound to earth and those dancing in the courts was merely physical. I can imagine the angels marveled as they watched the shepherds wonder at the star. As they watched the wise men on camels carrying gifts for this promised One.  And I imagine when they met the Shepherds in the field that night, the army of angels commanded by our Merciful God were joy-filled: their savior had become flesh. To save the lost, to bring His Beloved back into his courts.

Heaven watched earth receive their king, into a barn in David’s town. They watched. They sang. The Great Joy for All People, their Glorious King, a baby in Bethlehem.

And yet, Jesus had come to a world that would not receive him with open arms. He came to a people who would spit on him, revile him, wound him, hate him.

He came from the heavenly courts, of 24/7 light and dancing and feasting and perfection to become like us in every way, to know our pain, healing, grief, joys, sorrows, happinesses, and imperfections intimately.

But Peace on Earth was born.

And this birth started a chain of events that allowed us the following gift:

To whomever believes in him, receiving him as the King of their life and heart, He has given the right (because of Jesus’ life – from cradle to grave), to become children of God.  (see John 1:9-13) And as a child of God, those who are saved receive the birthright of Jesus. When God sees us, he sees Him and the perfection that he was and will continue to be.

And so today. There is cheer and joy and awe and marvel that resounds: the Gloried One came to bridge the gap between God and man.

Merry Christmas. May today be filled with reminders of Jesus’ Great Birth and what it means for those who believe in Him.

– Brittany

*=paraphrased

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Being a Samaritan in a Hard and Callous City / A Journal Entry

New York is not for the faint of heart.

I can recall to mind clearly, the thoughts my drama teacher spoke in my graduation send-off  (a bit paraphrased since this was 2 years ago and I don’t have the tape currently on me!)

Coming From New York, I understand what is required for someone to thrive there. And of the many students who have come to me with their dreams for the city, I have only recommended three individuals to take it on. It requires a fierceness and tenacity that only few have.

And I remember thinking: how hard can it really be?

As a silver linings person and an idealist, I fantasize over only the good aspects of places, people. Upon arriving, it was a startling, cold truth that met me. Especially when temperatures were no longer easy-breezy-70, but rather a bitter 25.

When the weather turns cold, people turn inward and with that emotional withdraw the care-free summer working girl becomes a hard, callous person, annoyed and frustrated with…just about everything.

Anyhow, I never thought I’d be the girl who’d yell “Seriously, man?” when a cab driver cut me off when I had the obvious right of way, never thought I’d be the one to send dirty, nasty looks to those who are visiting and walking 4 abreast on a sidewalk where you really ought to be walking single file. I never thought I’d be that one.

And yet here I am.

Today, a giant, black SUV defiantly ignored the traffic regulator and brushed right past me as I attempted to cross 29th Street. If the smoke coming from my ears was visible, it definitely would have been cause for onlooker concern. Sitting here in a quiet dorm room 9 hours later, it seems trivial to have deliberately made eye contact with the guy as I passed by him, yet at approximately 1:48 PM today, yowza.

How fitting that tonight I’m reading about Mercy. Being a good samaritan – loving your neighbor. It’s easy enough to say, to promise yourself to do, yet when that guy in the black SUV cuts you off – love begone, bygones will not be bygones, seriously dude?

And 9 hours later and I’m reading Luke 10 and yeeks, it hurts.

Some of the immediate thoughts I had after reading the text were penned as follows:

Cultivate mercy. Your neighbor includes the guy who runs the red. the groups who walk slowly. the people who don’t hold the door open for you when your hands are full.

anger is a choice.

being merciful is too.

Second only to loving the Lord with all your Heart and Soul and Mind (Luke 10:27a), is loving those around you (a longer synonym for “neighbor”) as you love yourself.

NOTE TO SELF: Mercy goes far beyond seeing someone in physical need and wrapping their broken with your feeble. Yes, it is a thousand times over coming to where the man lies, wounded and stopping and to bind up his wounds.

It’s also a heart-state.

It has to go beyond empathizing with someone who is injured, sick, or in an especially dark place.

This week and all the weeks after, may this mindset be something I lean into through my days. Because in this cold callous city, when someone allows you to take your right-of-way, when the girl in front of you waits a second longer to hold the door open for you when your hands are brimming, when the teacher helps you collect fallen papers off the floor: these are the ways you love those people around you as yourself. And when they cut me off. I am called to love them still.

 

on writing and the park bench

there is a frantic nature to it

to push each word through your limbs as fast as the sentences and your fingers allow.

verbiage waits for no man.

//

it’s clumsy, like learning to walk except once you pen the last mark, the clock reverses

the legs lose muscle memory,

and you’re back on the floor, crawling through chaos and catastrophe, allowing each texture and moment to surge through you.

//

to write is to magnify your weakness,

to take a microscope and focus on the swab of your failures

and to sketch what you see.

atoms and molecules, vibrating and buzzing and alive –

to write is to expose

temptations, mistakes, victories, happiness’

it is to peel back the layers of your yesterdays

to reveal todays thoughts, fears, truths.

///

it is art that does not need interpreting

because each sentence says the same thing

look at the ways i have lived

look at the things i have felt.

//

so it’s frantic

because nothing makes sense and to put a pen to paper is to attempt to understand why rain feels the way it does. because if you wait one second too long the moment will pass, the breeze will carry the scent of his clothing away from you, the man will hop onto a subway, the peaches juice will dry on your hands, and with the transience

goes the words.

so you put it down quick,

on the bench for ollie in the park,

so that tomorrow when you start thinking about sitting in that spot in hopes of a certain freckle faced boy walking by and saying ‘hello stranger, you are ravishing’

you won’t

because you’ll remember, he never comes.

and it was a mistake to sit there for all that time and look for him in each face.

///

this is the way i write.

frantically. frenetically.

 

diez y seis

 

I have nearly burst into tears numerous times throughout today’s 12 hours of wakefulness. It wasn’t until I was sitting in class writing down the day’s date that the sinking feeling arose in my stomach. Now it is all I can think about.

 

I just keep looking up at the perfectly blue sky, and the clear air, and I see New Yorkers taking pregnant pauses on street corners and I’m reading all these “Never Forget” posts all over the internet and I am in this city and it exists as usual. With it’s humans, it’s inhabitants pushing vulnerability into the bottom of their belly and carrying on as usual. And I’m not sure why it’s the 16th marker that triggered something in my soul, that unlocked a certain sorrow that I haven’t known before, but today 16 years later, I am not only profoundly aware of the date. I am painfully aware of the people who never got to go home.

And I can’t think too long about it. Because the breath gets all stuck in my throat and the tears gather beneath my eyelids because I’m…overwhelmed. Because 16 years later, I am walking and breathing and living steps away from the place that rocked the tectonic plates of the city.  I ache all the way down to my bones, because every time I visit Ground Zero, I touch someone else’s name and it hurts the lines in my palms, that they have never known the same name twice.

 

I feel cut up and carved out.

 

Because 2,996 is a big number. Because each one was a separate entity at one point that now makes up a whole. I am hurting and bruised for those who visit graves today and picnic beside the markers with those lost names on them. I ache. The skies are blue, the sun is shining, and it has been 16 years.

 

So I’m taking those pregnant pauses with New Yorkers today. I’m stopping. To look up at the sky and marvel at the blues that I get to see, the coffee I get to drink, the steps I get to take, the feelings I get to feel.

I’m remembering but not thinking too hard. Because I’ll cry. And the gratitude will seep right out of me.

Gratitude and sorrow exist simultaneously today. And I’m running out of words to say. 

So here. The rest of the journal entry:

Profoundly aware of the blessing of today. Of being able to breathe and remember in unison with a city that has groaned and grown in the wake of tragedy. 16 years later and the exact moment the towers cracked was spent learning about the collective processes that allow us to see the colors of our world. It is a day to mull over the gift that is today.

16 Years Later and I’m beginning to cry writing this at the table on the second floor, because I don’t remember what the skyline was like before. I don’t remember the crackle of the TV screen and the sound of Mom crying as she watched the tragedy in real time. 

So it’s 16 years later and I can’t remember what 8:46am was like.

But I know how it feels to look at the beautiful blue tower resurrected in honor of the 2,996. I know the surge of joy, of sorrow, of fresh pain, of pride, that rushes through every limb and muscle strand when I glimpse the building resurrected in their honor.

So it’s 16 years later and I can’t remember the exact moment. But I am thinking about all the names. And praying hard for the ones left behind. And there is no smoke in the air. And the skies are blue. And it’s 16 years later and it hurts. And I’m grateful.

happiness’

today, i ate dumplings for the first time. 1.25 of pure deliciousness.

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tasty dumpling / chinatown

can we take a minute to appreciate these shadows? all the heart eyes. yes please.

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lowes / 6th ave

if you’re ever in the city, wanting to do non-touristy things (10/10 would rec), the union square farmers market is the loveliest! honey bee farmers with jars of delicious syrup, gorgeously wrapped bouquets, the freshest tomatoes, juiciest strawberries and a whole lotta local love. (open m, w, f)

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farmers market / union square park

waitress was one of the most wonderful musicals i’ve seen. all the of the gut-wrenching tears and belly-aching laughs.

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waitress, the musical / 47th street, b/t 7th and 8th ave

this van gogh quote, stirring up my heart-strings:

happy labor day. here’s to all the little happiness’ that collect around our lives like stardust does to the night sky.

xoxo,

brittanycharis

 

Of Devotions and Storms

 

Today I was reading this passage in Luke:

“And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water, and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves and they ceased and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and waters and they obey Him?” (8v23-25)

This is my response:

I like the calm after the storm. The way the water begins to flow softly, tenderly. The way sun breaks through the clouds, pushing darkness to the edge of the world. The golden light that shakes water from tree branches, touches the tips of the waves, kisses light, goodness, and peace back into the places that had, moments before, been places of upheaval.

I like the calm after the physical earth-shaking storm. I like the calm after the spiritual one, too.

The peace. The easy-breathing. The golden days. The light.

And this metaphor is horribly cliche and yet ever so telling of how trials and tragedies and dark times feel. Like chaos. Like disorder. Like darkness. And as I was thinking about the words of these 3 verses of scripture, this seemed to bubble up out my soul.

Storms inevitably rise up in our lives. In places that were once calm, in places that we’ve never been before. They rise. Around us, in us. The kind of storms you don’t see coming that happen in places of joy and peace, are suddenly ripped apart the winds and rain. And we tremble. The ground beneath our feet gives way. We shake. The physical, worldly comforts are removed. We are filled with fear.

In these seasons, how quick we are to ask the King to calm it.

We are taught that He is our helper, our merciful Lord, our sure and steady rock and He is all these things.

So we accuse him of distance and detachment when the storms gurgle and boil and rise.

As our boats fill with water and the waters bubble up within our hearts, fear and trembling and doubts creep in to a faith that we once dubbed as being strong.

And when the Lord returns to view, when he wakes and draws near and calms the wind and the raging waves with but a word, we are filled us with marvel. Suddenly our long drawn out season is but a drop in the bucket, He becomes the “Good God” in our hearts, he becomes the caring, merciful King once more.

And it begs this simple question: “Where [was] your faith?”

The disciples marveled at his ability to calm the sea, once it was no longer a threat.

And I think we feel this same marvel too, when trials and valleys disappear.

But how incredible is the wind?

The waves?

The way the waters rise and surge? The electricity pops and the darts of light that drag themselves across the sky? How wonderful are the disasters? How messy, how muddy, how beautiful.

These things should fill us with marvel. Metaphorically and physically.

They are extraordinary, beautiful, disasters.

I want to be filled with marvel and wonderment in the midst of the flood.

In the midst of the deep. In the midst of the storm. In the midst of fear, in the midst of pain, in the midst of tragedy. I want to see the ways he has strengthened the pain so I might become less. So He might become greater.

May the pain of trial, winds, and rain show you the greatness and

Unfathomable beauty of our Savior and king.

In our weakness, He is made strong.

The calm will come, but until then, be filled.

With marvel.

Xoxo,

brittanycharis

weekly round-up / nyc

happy labor day! i hope today has been as laborless for you as it has for me. with exception to an errand i ran this morning, i’ve spent most of the day catching up on keeping up with the kardashians in various sleeping positions. i have no shame because i only have hulu for a month. holler.

KUWTK shenanigans aside, yesterday marked another week longer of being in the city. weeks here are full, bustling, and filled: there are adventures on every corner, lining every street, filling every stop and it makes for weeks that are brimming with delight.

. . . . .

 in which i discover that the first day of classes synonymous with buying gelato:

Monday marked day one of classes here at the FIT and when they wrapped up for the day, I still had time to kill and a belly to fill. I headed out to fifth to try out what is now my favorite gelato place: eataly. I devoured the salted caramel cream before I could snap a picture of it but I did get to enjoy these sites while I filled my belly with sweetness.

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view while eating

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my backyard in the golden hour

. . . . .

in which i finally have a full day out and use it window shopping:

my usual day-off activity in this city is going onto fifth, are we surprised? it stretches on endlessly with so many places to explore, i’ve really only mapped out 1/8 of the street. there’s so much more discover. i spent most of the morning/afternoon in club monaco. the store is complete with a satellite store of the strand, a florist, and of course the infamous toby’s estate coffee.

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bookstore

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talk about beautiful. florals & the prettiest clothes

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toby’s

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to die

. . . . .

MET up with a few mishaps:

after a few miscommunications, I found myself on the Upper-East Side with nothing to do. So I embraced my inner serena van der woodsen and enjoyed what the beautiful museum had to offer and I was not disappointed. currently at the met, there is a conde nast feature, chronicling technology in fashion. It displays renowned  designers from around the world, Givenchy to Dior to Chanel. Manus x Machina is a jawdropping exhibit. 10/10 rec.

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spotted

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one of my favorite views

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afternoon shadows

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givenchy; this was my most favorite gown. ugh. jawdropping.

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i’d like one of each, please.

. . . . .

saturday roaming

my roommate had a visitor so i set off to explore by myself. i ended up going to Ralph’s Coffee on the second floor of Ralph Lauren on (SHOCKER) fifth ave, near the rockefeller center. it was lazy and delightful and i spent the overcast saturday morning, journaling with a pretty mocha.

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delight

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art

. . . . .

sunday afternoon & the sun’s a-blazin:

after church, lunch, and grocery-shopping, we were all ready for a little chill time. we headed down to madison square park and enjoyed some music in the park, complete with chubby little toddlers bopping along to the barbershop quartette.

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peek-a-boo baby

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rows

. . . . .

laborless monday morning:

and finally, this morning.

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broadway

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$2 lattes are the best thing.

$2 lattes (count me in) from the coffee shop down the road, journaling, and walking around our (not so little) backyard. i love this city so much. the hustle, the bustle, the music of a thousand dreams.

next week? i’m (so) ready for you.

xoxo,

brittanycharis