Saturday, December 29, 2007

Sick, Sick, Sick

You all know the tune to "Jingle Bells," right? Well, I've written new lyrics. Sing along: Sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, sick, sick!

Argh! The entire Baart family has run the gamut from pneumonia to bronchitis and beyond. Ew! It's been a yucky December. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing that none of us have been sick at the same time... There's always someone to take care of you, but then, there is always someone SICK! At least I think we are all (finally) on the mend. We've consumed enough antibiotics to kill virtually anything creepy and crawly that might invade our systems. So, in light of my fledgling health (and as my overtime job as nursemaid slowly begins to wane), I promise to start blogging again. To keep you interested, here's what's coming up:

Reviews! I did a lot of reading this month and I can't wait to talk about Water for Elephants, The Thirteenth Tale, and an amazing book that challenged my ideas about God called The Shack. I so excited to tell you all about it.

News! I'm thrilled to show you the finalized cover for Summer Snow--it's gorgeous. And have I mentioned that I've signed a new book contract? I'll tell you all about it...

Musings! I love the holidays, but they always make me think. I'll blow off some of that steam here.

Sorry it's been so dull around here. I hope that in the interim you have had a beautiful Christmastime with family and friends. It's a snowy wonderland in my neck of the woods and God has been good. May the same be true for you. And, may you have a blessed end to 2007...

Monday, December 17, 2007


Okay, so it's been a very long time since I've blogged. I have good excuses: we've been in BC, we've dealt with sick kids (if you can imagine it, they've had it), and we've ho-ho-hoed our way through a variety of Christmas traditions and expectations. Whew. Though I love the holiday season, and though we're having a ton of fun, I'm sure you can tell that things are a little crazy around here. Wacky. Wild. Maybe the teensiest bit desperate. So instead of adding one more thing to my already full plate and trying to blog about something deep and meaningful, I'm just going to give you a glimpse into the mild desperation I call life right now. Each and every example is taken directly from the last few days of my life. Enjoy. I hope it makes you laugh.

You know you're desperate when...
  • instead of verbally convincing your child to smile nice for the family Christmas photo, you offer him not one, not two, but three boxes of Smarties (the Canadian version of M&Ms). And these aren't snack-sized boxes either. Oh no, they're big. Enough for a 24 hour sugar rush at least.

  • you rely on Facebook to keep you up-to-date on the goings on in your friends' lives. No, not the long-distance friends, the friends that live mere blocks from your house.

  • you eat chip dip off your child's dirty plate with your fingers because there wasn't any left when you had a chance to eat.

  • you convince yourself that taping a piece of banana peel to your foot is a viable option for treating symptoms at home. I cannot believe how ridiculous that sounds. Don't ask, I'm not telling.

  • you make sangria out of dandelion wine and apple juice because it's all you had in the house. It was an appetizing cat-puke orange. Yummy.

  • though you promised yourself you would never, ever, ever spit shine your own child in public, when you realize in church on Sunday morning that you forgot to wipe your son's peanutbutter face, you don't hesitate to madly lick your fingers and go at the offending stickiness with alarming intensity.

  • you don't blog for nearly two weeks because you can't organize a coherent thought, much less an interesting blog entry.

There you have it. It's been a little nuts around here. But don't let the twinge of desperation in my tone fool you--we're loving every minute of it. Just look what we woke up to on Sunday morning...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

On Vacation

I know it's not Christmas yet, but I'm officially off on a holiday vacation! We're headed for Vancouver, BC (our second home) for a week full of family, food, and apparently, snow. Snow?!? Snow is an Iowa thing, not a Vancouver thing! Iowa is equipped for it: snow plows, snow tires, snow saavy drivers... the greater Vancouver area is not equipped for it. Their one little snow plow doesn't cut it, and the last time I was privileged enough to drive on snowy Vancouver roads all the other drivers acted like I was a moving target. Yikes. Say a prayer for me, will ya?

Anyway, snow drama aside, we really are going to be gone. I apologize in advance for the inactivity in blog land. If you're bored, check out some old posts (this is post #63, believe it or not). I'm sure you'll find something worth laughing at. Notice I say laughing at not laughing with. I'm okay with that. You can laugh at me.

As my four year old would say: Peace out, my peeps. Of course, he has no idea what he's saying. He thinks peeps are those yummy little marshmallow chicks you can only find at Easter. Speaking of, I could go for a pink one right about now... :)

Have a happy week!

Advent Hope

It’s Sunday afternoon and, as usual, something Aaron preached about this morning is rattling around in my mind. (You must get so sick of my quasi-theological ramblings… Sorry. But am I sorry enough to stop…? Umm, no.)

Since today is the first Sunday of Advent, the sermon centered around the theme of hope. Usually Aaron likes to preach exegetically rather than thematically, but for the sake of the traditional advent calendar, he was willing to abandon his typical, single-text sermon structure and play a little “Old McDonald Had a Sermon” (with a text-text here and a text-text there, here a text, there a text, everywhere a text, text). He-he-he! Anyway, I’m glad that he did. I got a lot out of his Bible-flipping.

In a nutshell (though much more eloquently than my attempt at summation), Aaron asserted that hope is a process. It is something that exists both NOW and NOT YET. Our hope is secure (the life and death of Jesus Christ), but it is also waiting completion (His second coming). And in this tension of waiting and hoping, of losing the battle but winning the war, we must exist in the balance between knowing our salvation is secure and enduring the suffering that this world has to offer.

This is one of the glorious paradoxes of God that continually confounds spiritual skeptics: “How can there be a God when there is so much suffering in the world?” I can’t help but wonder, “How can there NOT be a God when there is so much suffering in the world?” The suffering isn’t the point, the enduring hope for renewal is. We all know, we all know, that this is not the way things are supposed to be. Nothing is quite right. Even the good stuff--the fantastic relationships, the gorgeous vistas, the moments of clarity--are a dim reflection of what we all know in our hearts they should be. We long for something more. And we can’t help it: we have eternity set in our hearts. So we hope.

What a difficult thing to believe at the edge of our postmodern age. If nothing is universal, if we must lack the optimism for a truth that will finally explain everything for everybody, how can we offer insight into a persevering hope? A hope that will transcend all the sorrow and darkness and disbelief? A hope that can cover us all?

I think we have to abandon the notion that hope is something we can package up and offer as a universal gift, one size fits all. Hope that promises measurable results feels cheap at best. But if we can grasp the concept that we are the people of the second advent, that in the character of our perseverance through the suffering we have endured we will exhibit a glorious, eternal hope, I think we will become a light that shines in the darkness. We are the personification of advent. We are the hands and feet of Christ to this age. We are the hope He has to offer His beloved world.

Wow. What an amazing challenge to Christians. And what a challenge to those of us who consider ourselves artists. Our lives, our words, our paintings, our everything has the potential to offer hope. We get to be a mirrored reflection of the glorious hope that is fulfilled in Christ. What an opportunity. And what a responsibility.

I think the reason why all of this weighed so heavy on me today is because I just finished The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. (Yes, I’ve been reading it forever and a day.) Anyway, I’ve been trying to put my finger on why my initial love of the book turned to a growing dissatisfaction that finally blossomed into a full-fledged dislike of such a critically acclaimed work. Kiran writes beautifully. Her prose is stunning. And her story is gripping. But it’s so hopeless. Utterly and completely hopeless. Yuck. It was ultimately so heavy and so sad that I had to convince myself to keep reading it. I just knew it would end in tragedy. Thankfully, Kiran was kind enough to offer one itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny (albeit shallow and unsatisfying) hope in the final page of the book. But it wasn’t enough for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about examining the depth and breadth of suffering. I think that in many ways coming face to face with our need is a healing and even affirming experience. I believe it can deepen our love and appreciation for the God who saves us. But without the promise, without hope, what does that sort of reflection have to offer us? Absolutely nothing.

I desire for my writing to be hope-filled. I want it to be an impetus that drives people to continue to look forward, to look for God in the midst of it all. I ache for people to be able to find meaning and hope woven into the fabric of their own broken lives. I know that I have (that my writing has) a long way to go, but I am holding this objective in front of me. I am (we are) the personification of hope. May I (we) be worthy of the call.