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Today I was supposed to go shopping.

It’s my last day in India, and I had planned to spend it in the markets in Delhi. I’d thought I’d buy a cashmere shawl, maybe, or some earrings for myself, and maybe snap a few more photographs of this ridiculous, frantic city.

Instead, I am in the hotel. My son is sick, so I’m a mom instead of a tourist, and my last chance to see India before going home is a bust.

I’ve been a bit concerned about going home, to be honest. After seven weeks in India, the thought of landing back home just as the Christmas season is gearing up is daunting. I’ve been wearying myself with the thought of trying to put together a short-order Christmas in a borrowed house in a new town.

But, today, my child is sick, and I find myself immediately okay with stepping out of my India shoes and slipping on my taking-care-of-my-family ones. It’s time.

Soon, I will hug my dears and sleep in my bed and drink real coffee. I will put on some Christmas music, then, and bake pecan tarts and decorate the tree and watch corny holiday shows with my husband.

India is over, and home is calling.

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I’ve been thinking about gifts for a while. Since my husband gave me this amazing copper cooling tray for Christmas, actually. Because when he gave it to me, it wasn’t a cooling tray at all.

My husband and my youngest son created this kitchen-art out of plumbing material – copper pipe – for me. Out there is the cold garage they took the most humble of materials, meant for the most humble of uses, and they made this beautiful thing.

It came in a huge box, awkwardly man-wrapped, and when I opened it on Christmas morning I had to ask its name. I knew it had a story, but I didn’t know what it was. Turns out it was intended to be a bathroom tray, a place for shampoos and lotions and such but what I really wanted, I told my husband, was to put it on my kitchen table and to use it every day to hold the hot loaves of bread and the supper casseroles.

So that’s what it became. A gift given for one purpose but destined for another.

A story can always change its mind, you see.

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.

Some people like to take the mystery out of things. They analyze and quantify and theorize and this is great for some things, but not for others.

Some things are meant to be just plain wonderful. Like babies.

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Is there anything more incredibly delicious than a ripe momma on the last legs of her pregnancy? Waiting, anticipating, consumed already with love for the tiny thing she hasn’t yet seen. Wondering what he will look like. Will he have daddy’s eyes or grandma’s nose? Will she be whole and healthy and will she nurse okay and sleep okay and grow up okay?

I remember my first look at my first boy, the first time I saw him outside me, and honestly, there are no words. I can promise you I wasn’t thinking about anything except how absolutely amazing he was. How perfect and beautiful and pink and even as my husband was severing the cord between my son and me, my heart was fusing a new and stronger bond.

Every baby should be born into the arms of loving parents, and have lots to eat and warm clothes to wear and to be cared for with wisdom and tenderness. Every baby should have this but they don’t.

I have a little boy living under my roof. A sweet young thing not born to me, and this year he can’t go home to his mom’s for Christmas. For the first time in his life, he won’t be waking up in her home on Christmas morning or finding his presents under her tree. This is hard. It’s hard for him and it’s hard for me and I’m more than sure it’s hard for her.

It’s an awkward triangle we form, two moms and a boy, and it leaves us all pointy angles at times. Trying to make something work in a way it wasn’t meant to is never easy.

An awkward triangle, imperfect and perhaps hopeless but for grace.

This is the beauty of Advent in my heart today. Amazing grace, carried to earth in baby form, that smooths sharp angles and sweetens the bitter taste of disappointment. Grace that makes beauty of our messes.

Because Lord knows I make enough of them.

Praying grace covers all of us today, dear friends.

I have a great fondness for my hens. They are Isa Browns, raised from chicks. Two peeping boxes of yellow fluff that arrived at our local feed store last spring. They grew from babies to toddlers in the safety of our basement bathroom, heat turned up to keep them warm without a momma to do the job. A few died. We ate some this fall, but about fifty of them continue to call the chicken house out by the barn, home.

These ladies provide me with a rich bounty of eggs. Beautiful, big, brown eggs with dark yellow yolks. I haven’t had to buy eggs at the grocery store all winter.

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Until recently, I’ve had enough eggs to sell to, and trade with, friends. (The weather has hindered egg production these past few weeks.) I sell them for three dollars a dozen. I can’t keep up to the demand. But the most fun has been trading. These are some of the things I’ve “bought” with eggs.

Christmas presents. Last December, I was looking on our local online garage sale page for some games to use as stocking stuffers for my children. I left a post asking if anyone had Risk or Crib, and a friend responded with a “yes” about the Crib game.

What would you like for it? I asked.

How about a dozen eggs, he said.

Done. A Risk owner saw the conversation, and said she’d be happy with a dozen eggs in exchange for her game. Cool! Two dozen eggs traded for two stocking stuffers.

Sauerkraut. I don’t want to make it. I have a friends who does, and she’s happy to trade me a jar of kraut for a couple of dozen eggs. Perfect.

Other food stuffs. I have traded eggs for homemade goodies, for yogurt starter, for sourdough bread starter, for deer sausage, for milk kefir grains, and for garden produce. Trading makes me happy.

I’ve also been blessed by selling eggs. Besides buying feed for the hens, I’ve used egg money to pay for drama club for my children, buy a plane ticket to British Columbia, buy books for book club, and in general add to the family treat fund.

I’m not exactly sure where all these feelings I have for my hens and their eggs come from. People have said to me, you can buy a dozen eggs pretty cheaply at the grocery store. And that’s true. But they aren’t family eggs, raised by family hands, nourished with scraps from the family table, and cared for with family concern.

I have happy hens. I think they make happy eggs. And that makes me a happy mom.

Hello, Friends. I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas.

Today I’m writing about the after-Christmas blahs over at my newish blog, How to Homeschool High School. I’d love it if you’d stop by and take a look!

The season.. pregnant with anticipation and preparation. Baking and choosing and wrapping and sharing. An evening service in a barn. The time draws near.

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When it’s time, it’s time.

The list and the undone and the rush… it all slows to the one thing that is happening. It all drops away, and creation does her thing, and birth happens.

It’s time.

I’m up early, tea and quiet my friends as I wait on the excitement of children and the sleepy dad who will pretend scrooginess. I can’t help but sit with her a while, that mother named Mary. We share the quiet, nodding at each other over our warm cups. Sharing plans for dinner and smiling at the memories of our children when they were small.

That day, that birth. I want to ask her more about it. I want to hear from her what it was like, to bring him into the world. The first time she held him, bathed him, kissed his toes.

In this bit of quiet, I let it all fall away, and I stop.

Today is a birth. Today, the pain of labour fades and the joy of the new unfolds.

Today it begins again… the wide-eyed wonder.

May you smile and cuddle and kiss a dear, sweet face. In his memory, may we cherish one another. May we love and laugh, and rest a bit for there are sure to be some sleepless nights to come.

Merry, merry Christmas!