December 2013


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There’s a lot of pressure to write significant stuff on significant days. I don’t know about you, but at the end of a long year, I’m about done. It’s been 365 days, people. I’m ready to put it all behind me and move on.

But it’s New Year’s Eve, and I suppose that means it’s time to summarize or sermonize or something-ize.

So…

I dunno. I’m sitting here trying to think great thoughts, while the Christmas tree I’d intended to take down two days ago still blinks merrily away and the mutant laundry pile in the basement is calling to her cousin piles in the bathroom upstairs. I have beds to change and meals to fix and toilets to clean.

I don’t say any of that with bitterness in my heart. It is what it is, you know? It’s my reality, on this last day of 2013.

Maybe I’ll have great thoughts later. Maybe some significant stuff will occur to me while I’m fixing lunch.

Or maybe a simple day, at the end of a pretty simple year, is significant enough.

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If you are interested, these were the top five posts on the blog in 2013:

1. the coffee incident

2. So, families with small children… what’s a church to do?

3. how I wish I’d always live

4. all my friends are smarter than me

5. why I love the bad kids

Thank you for reading. Really. And Happy New Year!

Sometimes good things are a quick surprise. Sudden joy without effort. Sometimes.

Often though, good things take a while.

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You know this. Green grows before it blooms. Cake bakes before it tastes. Wakening before day. There’s an order and a space and time – patience, right? – and then sometimes, after all the growing or stirring or whatever, it happens.

I tuck him in his bed, like I’ve done since he came. Toes covered by Scooby Doo blanket, quilt snuggled under chin, glasses on shelf. I reach down for the hug – I remember the first few, his arms straight like sticks and how I had to teach him the curving into that makes hugging real – and I kiss his cheek and whisper I love you into his ear.

I leave the room and as I’m closing the door behind me a small voice reaches my ear.

Sometimes it takes a hundred nights to hear I love you, too.

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The fourth day of Christmas, dedicated to the Holy Innocents as they’ve been named, those slaughtered at the command of an evil king afraid for his throne, and it’s more than a mother’s heart can bear. It really is, but it’s history and so it’s the second-hand kind of sorrow that only filters in if I let it.

Tragedies are not all history, though, and as I sit in the morning of this day, this Childermas day, I think of the innocents of my time. Of today and tomorrow, when children will be sold into slavery or taken from mother’s wombs or hungered to death or killed in their classrooms.

It’s more than a mother’s heart can bear, but still I’m protected by distance and comfort and the ability to put it out of my mind. To be thankful for the health and safety of mine, and to forget of the lack of theirs. Those mothers, those families, those children who live without.

This week, friends of mine will be building a school in Mexico.

Next week, my parents and some of their friends will be building a home in Mexico for the family of a friend they met there last year.

I have friends who are heart-heavy involved with The Exodus Road, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting human trafficking and child slavery.

I have friends who have adopted or fostered or just plain loved the children in their paths who needed them.

These are a few of the beautiful things happening in my little circle of what’s going on in the world. You know of other groups, other people, who are helping as they can, where they can.

Today I’ll donate some of my money to some of these causes, in the name and memory of the innocents.

But more than that, I’ll see my own, really see them today, and I’ll know in my heart of the blessing of children. Those of my womb, and those of my heart.

I’ll make their favourite foods and I’ll laugh at their jokes, and I’ll miss the one who is missing, and I’ll heap prayers upon prayers for them, and for them all.

O Lord, hear my prayer.

And let my cry come unto Thee.

O Lord Jesus Christ, once Thou embraced and placed Thy hands upon the little children who came to Thee, and said: “Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, and their angels always see the face of my Father!” Look now with fatherly eyes on the innocence of these children and their parents’ devotion, and bless them this day through our prayers.

In Thy grace and goodness let them advance continually, longing for Thee, loving Thee, fearing Thee, keeping Thy commandments. Then they will surely come to their destined home, through Thee, Savior of the world. Who lives and reigns forever and ever.

Amen.

common prayer of blessing on the fourth day of Christmas

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I know it’s over. The gifts unwrapped and all, and the butter tarts and cookies all eaten. The big boy has already left and so, yes, Christmas Day has come and gone and I suppose I should be moving on.

I’m not quite ready, though.

Even though I plan to take down the tree and pack away the decorations and even though there is nary a crumb of sweet left in the kitchen cupboards. I’m not ready to let it all go.

It was sweet and simple and, I guess, filling. Christmas filled me just right – not overstuffed, not still hungry – and I want to linger in that satisfied place for a while.

So I am. This year, for the first time, I’m doing the twelve days of Christmas, and on Epiphany (January 6) we’ll feast a little and celebrate the visit of the magi and we’ll find some kind of giving way to mark that.

Really, I’ve not heard much about or commemorated these days in any kind of way in the past. And it won’t be much this year. I’ll spend a moment with Liz each day, and remember the babe for a while longer because heaven knows it will be a scant few weeks and we’ll be nailing him to a cross and thinking about all of that.

I’m lingering and listening and loving my people, thankfully and quietly stealing a few more Christmas days, and then maybe I’ll be ready for the new.

We said goodbye to a friend yesterday. He’s been like one of our boys for a long time and now he’s off on an adventure and so yesterday afternoon after church, like so many Sunday afternoons past, he spent time with us and ate with us and then it was time for him to leave.

IMG_2937 We said goodbye and there were tears and jokes because… boys.

Today is Christmas Eve eve and I have things to do. I have a little boy who needs his laundry done and his bag packed, and I bet the rest of us would like some clean socks, too, and I need to run to town for milk and hopefully to hold a little babe and hug her mom for a few minutes, and we’re out of bread so there’s that.

But I’m thinking of a boy and a goodbye and of how things end. They just do.

Even Advent.

There’s a looming goodbye around the corner. A farewell to a season of waiting, resting, and expecting. And beyond, there is a birth and a hello.

And this is the sacrificial sweetness of goodbyes, for without them the hellos would be impossible.

We call it hope.

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I read it this morning in Luke. The thing that happened in those days, and how the shepherds heard about it. The angel showing up in the middle of the night in the middle of the field in the middle of all those sheep and the glory of the Lord shining around them, and the multitude of angels appearing with their praise and glorifying, and the shepherds were afraid. No kidding.

Not too afraid, though.

Not too afraid to pack up and go see the thing that had happened.

Not too afraid to make haste, or to share with the stable dwellers the message of the angels, or to return to their real lives, glorifying and praising.

I’m afraid, often, of the glory things.

I don’t want to be too afraid, though. Advent is a new baby, a new hope, and the ushering in of a new year. A year to go and to see and to praise and to glorify.

Amen.

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It’s that nagging feeling I have, that I haven’t done enough. The list of all I didn’t do is by far the longest. It would be easy to define the season by that, and feel less because of it.

I didn’t bake those cookies to give away. I didn’t get that wonderful package of goodies together for the bus driver or the school staff. I didn’t make special Christmas ornaments or decorate a Joshua Tree or light Advent candles. Honestly, I haven’t even read the Christmas story. Not once. Not to the kids and not to myself.

Boo, me.

I could redeem myself a little by telling you I’d spent the time really being present with my family, or taking long walks, or meditating, or planning the Christmas dinner menu. But none of that is true, either. Not really. I haven’t been intentional about much of anything, this Advent season.

Truth is, I’ve kind of crashed this month. Not in a depressed or overwhelmed or dog-tired kind of way, although, can I just say menopause and leave it at that.

I’ve thought about Advent. I’ve baked butter tarts and made cups of hot chocolate and listened to Christmas music in the bathtub, and we watched Elf together one night.

And I have had some sweet moments with my kids and my husband, it’s true. But mostly, it just happened. I didn’t plan anything very special. I’ve just lived through the month, doing the ordinary business of home life, and thinking a bit, reading a bit, writing a bit, and resting a bit.

Maybe, for this year, it’s enough.

Maybe I don’t feel so bad about it, after all.

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