consider yourself lucky...

i know that we send out totally annoying (yet jam packed with useless information) Christmas cards...

but it could be worse...


though perhaps i am just collecting some good ideas for next year....

another lengthy letter/lesson/liturgical liaison from lea...

(this is my yearly Christmas letter at the end of our family Christmas card... it was in a really small font in our letter and some people may find it easier to read in this format...)

as you may have surmised from our Christmas card this year (or if you know our family AT ALL), the marshalls are not a “cookie cutter” family. where everyone likes the same things, does similar activities, whilst sportin’ matching outfits and singing hymns (or broadway songs). that was SO my vision for how this whole family thing was going to go (perhaps too many viewings of “the sound of music”). but i am slowly learning God always does more than we ASK or IMAGINE. together our family runs the spectrum of interests, personalities, and sleep schedules. but because the extroverts still outnumber the introverts we keep sending out these excessively wordy Christmas cards. HOORAY!

another year has FLOWN by... and millie has flown from our nest all the way to belmont university in nashville! she LOVES belmont and nashville. she is home for winter break which makes this momma so happy! and winter break means it is time for another lengthy letter/lesson/liturgical liaison from lea. it’s almost enough to make one give up reading. but thank you to those who haven’t (or those of you who have learned how in the last year) and especially to those who are good at lying and tell me that you read every word of our card (which should be easier this year with all the infographics and so few words. until now...) but i wouldn’t be the lea you know (and hopefully love) if i didn’t use finish up this Christmas collaboration with WORDS...

2013 was the year of LIFT. which like all my yearly goals fell a bit flat. ha. but i do love the process of concentrating on one word for each year. for 2014 i have chosen the word LIGHT. since i don’t remember ANYthing from high school science (or from breakfast this morning),  i did a little study of this thing called LIGHT. turns out the science of LIGHT is at once both obvious and mysterious (just like me), scientists are continually making new discoveries about LIGHT. it is an antinomy (having the appearance of a contradiction) because it functions as both particles and waves.  LIGHT reflects, refracts, and scatters. i think this very accurately describes my life at this point of 47 years. so in the keeping of our infographic theme, i will do a more visual representation of my word of the year and some of my thoughts that come with this ILLUMINATING word...


REFLECT: to throw or bend back light 

    & also to think deeply or carefully, 

    to express carefully considered thoughts

this year i hope to reflect LIGHT. these days i am so glad there is Good News at Christmas that i don’t have to produce LIGHT myself (can i get an “amen” from my middle age peeps?). i only have to be a (sometimes dim) reflection of the Greater LIGHT that cannot ever be defeated by darkness. isn't it interesting (and encouraging) that the smallest LIGHT defeats darkness...

john 1:5 (the message) 
The LIGHT blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.

psalm 18:28 The Lord, my God,  LIGHTS up my darkness.

isaiah 9:2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great LIGHT; on those living in the land of deep darkness a LIGHT has dawned.


REFRACT: to make something change direction, from the latin “broken up.” 

refracting LIGHT means that things that enter appearing as disasters can be “broken up” and change direction and be seen as something good. refracting LIGHT means remembering i am always loved and God is always good. j.r.r. tolkien made up a fantastic and perfect word for this... EUCATASTROPHE: combining good (from the greek eu) and destruction (catastrophe). it describes the moment when the tiniest LIGHT of deliverance throws back the darkness. “the sudden joyous turn, not an ending, but the moment we get a glimpse of joy... a gleam of revelation from outside the narrative.” refractive LIGHT changes the direction of my daily catastrophes, my own failures, and the sorrows from this fallen world into something for my good. a reason to be thankful.


SCATTER: throw in various random directions, from the old english word “shatter”.

not only is my mind scattered these days, my family is also. everyone off doing their own activities (some in other states.) but scattered light is interesting and beautiful. light scatters only when it hits a rough surface. which gives me hope that even in my imperfection i can be a source of scattering LIGHT...SCATTER & REFRACT both come from words meaning “broken”. i don’t like broken things. yet a seed can only grow once it breaks open. a broken heart becomes a soft heart. we become stronger in our broken places. and broken LIGHT can sometimes give us the best more beautiful way to see the world. 

SCATTER & REFRACT both come from words meaning “broken”. i don’t like broken things. yet a seed can only grow once it breaks open. a broken heart becomes a soft heart. we become stronger in our broken places. and broken LIGHT can sometimes give us the best more beautiful way to see the world. 



one of the most striking things i learned regarding LIGHT is that the human eye is only able to detect a small region (visible light) of the sun’s electromagnetic spectrum. if the entire electromagnetic spectrum of LIGHT was the distance from new york to los angeles, this visible range (what we actually see) would be the size of a dime. all the colors, all the beauty that i do see is only a dime sized view of the VASTNESS that is LIGHT. 

so LIGHT is CRAZY huge and most of it we can’t see with these human eyes. i guess that is why this life is such a walk by faith and not sight. i know ALL that invisible LIGHT is there (well, i know it since my google LIGHT search). just like i KNOW that God's LOVE and GOODNESS surrounds me daily. even though i only see small glimpses. and sometimes the daily catastrophes seem to block out that dime sized visible LIGHT. i know that all His promises are answered YES in Christ Jesus. even when i don't see them answered today. this year i want to be quick to look for the good (EU) in daily destruction to find the EUCATASTROPHE. look for the LIGHT that is always there giving me a glimpse behind the scenes knowing there is so much more than my eyes will ever see in this lifetime. 

2 corinthians 4:5-12 (the message) It started when God said, “LIGHT up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with LIGHT as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful. If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at...


LIGHT: adj. “gentle, not burdensome” or even “cheerful and entertaining.” 

i love this quote from g.k. chesterton: 

“it is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”

the heaviness of everyday life and everyday strife weighs me down, and it is so hard to be LIGHT. it takes special effort to be gentle with others and cheerful in these days of a constant blame, shame, and “i have it worse than you” game. i crave this kind of LIGHTness of being and hope to bring it into the spaces where i go everyday and into the lives of the people that God surrounds me with. i hope this card has been cheerful and entertaining. we can be a bit on the self-aggrandizement scale (practice your SAT word skills with that beauty.) it is a marshall trait (maybe just a lea marshall trait). but hopefully it brought a bit of LIGHT heartedness to you and your family.

matthew 11:28-30 (the message)

Are you tired? Worn out?…Come to me. 

Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.

I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 

Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.

Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. 

I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.

Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and LIGHTly.

one of my favorite books EVER is the tale of despereaux by kate dicamillo. and i will end this LIGHT lesson by quoting the way the book begins...

“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.” 


this world is dark & LIGHT is precious. i hope this season is a season of LIGHT for you. LIGHT reflected. refracted. and scattered. visible LIGHT to see the beauty and the gifts that you have been given and invisible LIGHT that isn’t seen with eyes, but felt deeply in your soul sensing there is something even more deLIGHTful beyond what our eyes can see and our minds can think. may the LIGHT break into your story with Grace and Glory, so that even in a season of catastrophes there is EUCATASTROPHE. there is LIGHT everlasting...

revelation 21: 23-25  Heaven does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it LIGHT, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its LIGHT, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.


quest, journey, or ADVENTure...

yesterday adam drove millie back to nashville and so rosie, maxx and i went to procure a Christmas tree. even though adam made a valiant effort in our yearly debate over Christmas tree procurement. this year he had a small victory. he managed to convince maxx to join his side as a NON Christmas tree procurer. most likely because the heavy lifting of tree work (carrying it in, lights, and taking off lights and carrying it out of the house falls to one of the marshall men.) adam doesn't like decorating for the holidays. or any days. i am certain this stems from deep seeded childhood issues that a therapist could wrangle out of his subconscious but a man who doesn't want to spend $30 on a Christmas tree isn't about to spend $150 on a therapist. and frankly there may be other stuff in that subconscious that needs to stay sub. so it is a yearly debate betwixt my man and me. and every year we (meaning the me part of we) end up with a tree. usually i try to buy and put it up when he isn't home. like a surprise/ambush/revolution.

so as we set out yesterday on our Christmas tree conspiracy, i mentioned that we were off on an adventure (trying to make it sound more fun than a regular trip to costco.) then maxx pointed out that the very word "adventure" had the word ADVENT in it. which i had never really thought about. i asked him what the etymology of adventure was. did it have something to do with "advent"? because maxx and i are freaks about etymologies and like to use them in conversations all willy nilly like.  maxx said "yes" since it has the implication of something arriving by chance. then maxx explained to me yesterday that the words quest, journey, and adventure are not synonymous. i asked him what was the difference. he explained...

a QUEST is a search to find an object or knowledge.

a JOURNEY is travel from one place to another.

and an ADVENTURE is something that happens that is unknown to the adventurer. it has an unknown outcome at the start. 

i nodded and pretended i already knew all of that. i can't let maxx think he is smarter than his mother. he is already taller. and more talented. and has a much better sense of style. i need to maintain some level of dignity...

here is the actual etymology (which is really close to what maxx told me. sigh. i can't hold on to my lead for long. he is going to figure out that i am the village idiot. in fact i bet he already knows it and is using his acting skills to hide his knowledge of that fact. dang. he's even a better actor...)

adventure (n.) 
auenture "that which happens by chance, fortune, luck," from Old French aventure "chance, accident, occurrence, event, happening," from Latin adventura "about to happen," from adventurus, future participle of advenire "to come to, reach, arrive at," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + venire "to come" (see venue). 

Meaning developed through "risk/danger" (a trial of one's chances), and "perilous undertaking" and thence to "a novel or exciting incident".  Earlier it also meant "a wonder, a miracle; accounts of marvelous things" (13c.). 

advent (n.) 
"important arrival," from Latin adventus "a coming, approach, arrival."

so we concluded that we couldn't really say we were going on an adventure. you can't really plan for an adventure. it might happen. but only God plans adventures. 

which is a perfect description for this advent season. we can "plan" for Christmas as much as we want. but the true meaning of Christmas only comes when we have ADVENT happen to us. something unforeseen. something risky, perilous, wonderful, something marvelous. that we didn't plan for. that we weren't looking for. that we didn't want but always needed...

so i would say that i hope this season is all three for you... a QUEST like the wisemen were on to find knowledge and a King. a JOURNEY like mary and joseph were on to get to a place of origin. but most of all i hope it is an ADVENTURE which happened to everyone involved in the story of the first Christmas. which comes only from the One who was before all things began and who will be revealing wonders into eternity...

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

and ransom captive Israel,

that mourns in lonely exile here

until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel,

shall come to thee O Israel!

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