Sunday, December 30, 2012


If I had known
it would be the last time I would talk to you 
eye to eye
one to one
heart to heart

I probably would have been a lot more honest.

If I had known that ever after
my words would be handed down
twisted through dubious filters of ignorance and blame,
and fed back to me as proof of my guilt,

I definitely would have been more honest.

Don't you know,
I don't need more proof from you (or you); 
nothing is clearer to me.
But you are walking blinded, while I am crippled,
And you cannot see that I can see.
I have not the power to reach you.

I should have been less honest;
Truth requires ears and eyes.

Monday, December 24, 2012


About 7 years ago, I was in an upstairs classroom with a pack of teachers at  6:45 am. Every day began with a time of devotion and prayer for our school and students. On this particular day, we circled up and held hands to pray together. "Pastor Rabbi" Kevin, the Messianic Jewish rabbi and high-school physics teacher led off with his fluid "Avinu Malkeinu, our Father, our King..." and we teachers, from so many different backgrounds, joined in with our prayers as well.
A snapshot of me in the school parking lot my first year teaching,
taken by my parents, proud of their (not very) gainfully
employed child.

After prayer, the hand on my right held on to mine longer than usual. It was one of the more pentecostal-leaning Bible teachers, Mr. M. He said, "Jana, I just wanted to mention this to you. I don't want to make you feel weird, but the past couple of days I've been next to you at prayers and I was given a vision both times. I don't usually share these things, but I feel like it was impressed on me that I should share this one with you. May I?" 

I said yes. He described what he had seen. I was standing in a warm, sunny area, like a field. It felt very warm and comforting. I was cradling an infant in my arms. The overwhelming sense of the image was contentment, wholeness, enough-ness, joy. As I teared up, he quickly told me that visions like this one are  symbolic. The imagery of a mother and child, while it can mean physical motherhood, can also be a reference to symbolic "motherhood" of a vision or embracing a calling of some kind.

I was in tears, on the brink of a major ugly-cry at 7 in the morning, with a whole day of maintaining order among 7th and 9th graders ahead of me. I couldn't respond much at the moment, but I talked with Mr. M about it at lunch a few days later. He asked me if there was any connection to that vision. I told him I wasn't sure. I had no idea what the "child"--if the vision wasn't about actual motherhood, which is a thing I have always deeply cared about--that I could hold so closely and tenderly could be. I asked him if he had any ideas about that, but he just frowned a little and shook his head. "I just know the sense of the image was deep happiness and wholeness." 

Sometimes I think about that image of myself, which I can imagine clearly; a strong woman, whole, joyful, devoted. The thing I still don't know is how to get there. How to become that woman, since she seems just as far away now as she did then. In some ways I've been looking for that "child" purpose ever since the vision was shared with me. In dour moments, I wish I'd thought to ask Mr. M how old I looked in the vision, because it seems to be taking its sweet time in coming to pass.

I've been remembering this image often during this advent season, this time of waiting, wondering, remembering to hope, dwelling on promises, but unable to see their fulfillment. I don't understand it, but then, neither did Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth or Zechariah understand the whys of God's promise and fulfillment in their lives. 

I don't pretend to understand the why or wherefore of these kinds of stories that touch on foreknowledge or vision or prophecy. In my experience, the vision, though in my knowledge it hasn't yet come to pass, has given me something still, something to wonder about, a possibility to treasure, a sense of joy to search for.

And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. -Luke 2:18-19

Friday, December 21, 2012

Here it is, Over the Rhine

I cried when I wrote this, I’ll always rememberThe worst kind of lonely is alone in DecemberThe act of forgiveness is always a mysteryThe meltin’ of ice and the future of history, yeah
Some call it obsession, I call it commitmentI make my confession, I make it in publicI hope that it’s helpful, that others can use itThat it’s more than my ego, my need to abuse it
I’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasI’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasI’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasAnd here it is
The leaves on the oak tree hold on through the winterThey’re brown and they’re brittle and they clatter togetherI can’t seem to let go, I’m so scared of losin’The deeper the love goes, the deeper the bruisin’, yeah
The trouble with talkin’ is it makes you sound cleverAnd the trouble with waitin’ is you’ll just wait foreverThere’s a loop of excuses that plays in your mindAnd makes the truth even harder to find
I’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasI’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasI’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasAnd here it is
When they blow Gabriel’s horn, rip fiction from factI wanna get caught in some radical actOf love and redemption, the sound of warm laughterSome true conversation with a friend or my lover, yeah
Somewhere down the road we’ll lift up our glassAnd toast the moment and the moments pastThe heartbreak and laughter, the joy and the tearsThe scary, scary beauty of what’s right here
I’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasI’m wrappin’ up my love this Christmas, yesI’m wrappin’ up my love this ChristmasAnd here it is
Oh, here it isOh, oh, oh, here it is, yeahOh, oh, here it isHere it is

Monday, December 17, 2012

White Christmas: "Is this the end?"

For the past three years, my friend and I have thrown a small "boozy baking day" party.

We bake sugar cookies, experiment with Christmasy cocktails, and watch Christmas movies, and this year it happened to coincide with watching the small-town lighted Christmas parade from Katrina's over-the-main-street-shops apartment.

This year my friend Bethany told us she'd never seen White Christmas, so we had it playing while we frosted cookies, drank hot buttered rum--light on the butter--and waited for the peppermint bark to cool in the freezer.

We were moving in and out between the kitchen and the living room, but I happened to sit down during the scene where the two sisters, Betty and Judy Haynes, are going to sleep the evening after little sister Judy has announced her engagement. We see modestly pajama'd Betty lying on her side, facing the camera in the foreground of the shot, and Judy sitting up in the background. Judy, thinking out loud, chats about how Betty can now feel free to do whatever she wants, and not be obligated to take care of her little sister. Betty, tears silently streaking her face, pretends to be asleep, and Judy, a little disappointed in the end of her sisterly chat,  goes to sleep as well.

Bethany walked in as I watched this scene. "Is this the end of the movie?" 

"No," I said "This is a happy movie."

I try not to think about the fact that this scene is where my story seems likely to end.

White Christmas wouldn't be the classic it is if the story ended there, with Betty's tears being shed because her key relationships are changing and she feels profoundly alone and unloved. 

I think of Laura Linney's character Sarah in the Christmas tragi-rom-com 'Love Actually.' 

Sarah's story is frustrating, considered a loose end by many because it doesn't end with the happy resolution of romantic love requited, but in a choice to accept a "not particularly note-worthy or inspiring", according to the film's opening, kind of love. 

On Christmas Eve, when our other characters are experiencing the triumph of Love Found, we see her paying a solitary visit to her mentally disturbed and institutionalized brother, receiving from him an uncharacteristic moment of lucidity and empathy (a strange little miracle moment relegated to  the deleted scenes). That's all the emotional and narrative payoff Sarah gets, as far as we see. I've always respected Sarah's story, but it's not the one you hope you end up living.

Even the 'loose end' stories of the faithful-but-barren Elizabeth and Hannah, who prayed their whole lives long to become mothers, end in resolution; Elizabeth becomes the mother of John the Baptist, Hannah the mother of Samuel, and both lived to see Jesus walk the earth. Still, I sometimes wonder about the other women in Elizabeth's and Hannah's communities who must have existed, whose stories aren't part of scripture. The ones who never married. The ones who stayed infertile. The ones whose stories ended as marginalized members of society, not as triumphant miracles.

Stories of those great transcendent miracles get told because they are rare, not because they are common. 

Still though, those untold lives must have experienced the small, everyday miracles of being in this world. Snow-stars drifting, and other beauties. Laughter. Good food. Creative work. Companionship, though not the kind they might have longed for. Children, though not their own. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tidings of Comfort

Every family has holiday traditions that are unique to them. They may be silly, but they make Christmas.

A few of my favorites are:

-putting together a Christmas/Winter/Snow Weather mix CD and sharing it with friends. My Snow and Stars 2010 mix: 

-The enormous Langstraat family christmas party (so big it's held in a church rec room) with incredible food and a fun, competitive gift swap and carol sing.
Grandma Langstraat and me last year

-Christmas Eve (A Christmas Eve service somewhere--a little more complicated now that multiple church services are involved) and Stocking-opening party. We always have a northwestern-style Christmas eve dinner with clam chowder and cheese biscuits for dinner, with lots of bacon. 

-Getting the tree. We've already got ours this year, thanks to my brother and his fiancee being completely on top of the whole Christmas-planning-thing. It is beautiful. and it is leaning a little bit at the moment. *goes to correct leaning tree*. 

-Advent studies. Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent by Enuma Okoro is the devotional study I'm doing this year. Check out the book, it's not too late to get caught up with Advent reading! 

-Christmas-decorating competition at the office. This year, we did not win. However, I still love our department's use of our new office space as an NYC city street. It was fun and competitive and...well, the Marketing team had Bagpipes, live chickens, an Egg-nog milking competition, and an adorable  3-year-old dressed as a partridge in a pear tree. So they totally deserved a win. Next year, Marketing. Next year.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Sometimes I feel that I've had more than my fair share of photography sessions, although several weddings took place before facebook and indeed, digital photos at all. Thank goodness is my first thought, when I remember my skinned-back hair and the one dress that made me look about as shapely as Olive Oyl.

It's been a wild and beautiful few years of standing up with dear friends on their special days, collecting lovely dresses and fabulous shoes, and learning how to just be (sometimes more successfully than others) with people in the midst of stressful and joyful days. 

All told, I've been in 7 wedding parties, and have helped in various ways with myriad others. There will be more weddings with the years to come. Some days, I swear off weddings, vowing to say no next time, to refuse to plan the showers, to stop getting excited about decorations, handmade gifts, dresses (and more importantly, shoes) and all the little accessories.

Here's a little review of the weddings I've been so blessed to be a part of over the past four years.

There will always be celebration. And there is hope in that.

(p.s. my friend Juliann is a fantastic wedding photographer. She took the recent photos of Jessi and Josh's wedding. Check out more photos from the wedding here.

2012- Jessi- day full of SWEETness.

2011- Sarah R.- so we laughed a lot this day, too.

2010- Sarah G. -so we giggled a lot.
2009-Luz and Cole-set design
2008- Steffi -1.) double ear infection 2.) more makeup
than I would have put on at age 4 with free range of my mom's makeup cupboard.