Thursday, December 30, 2010


My grandfather has had many health problems this year and it has been hard to see him suffer so.  But he loves the chaos on Christmas Eve, and so even though he was feeling unwell, he did not want to miss out on the Christmas Eve celebration.   He sat in a chair and chuckled at the antics of his eight great-grandchildren for a while and then went home early. 
Christmas day arrived and it was time for celebration number two.  My grandmother had been in so much pain from gall stones and shingles, but she rallied in order to celebrate Christmas with us.  The day was full of laughter and music.  All twenty-three of us sang Christmas carols around the piano and it brought such joy to her.
The next morning, I found myself visiting both my grandfather and grandmother in the hospital.  My grandpa had gone into the hospital with terribly low blood pressure and kidney failure and my grandma needed surgery to remove her gall bladder.   Weak and thin and diminished they seemed to me and yet they were both so courteous and brave.  My parents and I prayed for them and stroked their hair and plumped their pillows.
Celebration number three was that afternoon at my aunt’s house.  After dinner, my uncle played a DVD he had made from old movie reels from the 1960’s.  For the first time in my life, I saw video of my mother before I was born.    There was no sound and the picture quality certainly wasn’t high definition.   My grandparents were married to each other then, and it was such a joy to see them laughing and enjoying their five children.   In one clip, my mama was about five, being shepherded into a row boat with my grandpa, and she was wearing a skirt and bobby socks and he was wearing a summer suit and tie – a glimpse of that time when people were elegant and nicely dressed even on vacation.  Part of the delight of the whole thing was that even though almost 50 years had passed, all the mannerisms of my family were there.  I knew those people – their shrugs, smirks and smiles in babyhood are still the same today.
Such juxtaposition.  I wonder how God sees us.  Does He see us all our days overlapped?  Psalms tells us that He knew us in our mother’s womb and that He perceives our comings and goings.  Even our death is precious in his sight.  We are so caught up in linear time, but our Father knows us intimately when we are innocent children, awkward adolescents, and struggling and maturing adults. Most comforting of all, He knows us when our human bodies become a shell we need to shrug off so that we can know Him more fully.
Tonight, my precious grandfather is septic with an infection and delirious.  All I can do is hope and pray.  And trust that what the Psalms speak of is true, that all our days are ordained for us and we are precious, precious, precious to Him.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I've been learning Latin along with my children these last few years and it has opened up my mind to nuances that were overlooked by me before.

Advent is one such word.  It has always been just a Christmas word or a beginning word.  But this year, advent literally means "toward the coming" to me because I know the Latin roots.  I should be preparing, reflecting, expecting.

I love the Christmas story with its dreams and miraculous conceptions, joyous angels, weeping Simeon, and a mother who treasures it all in her heart.  But much of the time, in the midst of my Christmas preparations, I only give lip service to why I celebrate.  My heart is distracted by what I will wear to a party, what cookies I will bake, and whether or not my children look sufficiently adorable for the the Christmas photo.

For the remainder of this advent season, I am determined to be more mindful of Jesus behind my busyness.  His birth was the pivot point of history.  The darkness had a stranglehold on our little planet and we were stumbling, blind without his light and healing; desperate without his love.

Thank you, Jesus, for leaving the glories and worship of heaven to be born in a rude hut, live under oppression in a dusty land, and die a cruel death for me.

Advent Fulfilled

A baby's cry pierces the dark,
The WORD's first human sound.
The pivot point of history,
The lost can now be found.

Darkness, hatred, millennium of war,
Gnashing, keening, wailing for no more.
Promises given, prophecies foretold
Fulfillment quietly rests in the baby Mary holds.

"With the dawn of redeeming grace."
So the line sings in "Silent Night,"
In a tiny babe, we see God's face,
In a needy infant, we behold the light.

Come, Lord Jesus, come....

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A walk in Autumn's Splendor

A walk in autumn's splendor
Moves my soul as well.
God's cathedral -
And every golden tree
Stained glass of creation's memory.
I throw my arms around the wide world
And bind up every imagined wound.
Wipe the tear of the toddler,
Coax the infant to laughter.
Bless the bride and walk with the widow.
The wind rushes to me with a gentle kiss,
Whispering of mystery, majesty,
Of deep down gladness.

I am home - to the television, sneakers strewn,
crumbs on the kitchen floor.
Yes, Lord, be here as well.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Wedding

This afternoon, my husband and I had the privilege of witnessing a miracle.  A wedding. 

I personally think all marriages are miraculous but this particular wedding was actually the second time for this couple and so for me, I claim it as a bona fide miracle.  I don't know their story or why their first marriage to each other failed, but today was a true celebration of reconciliation, forgiveness, and hope.

As the pastor closed his prayer of thankfulness for this couple, he finished with the usual "in Jesus' name."  The groom echoed him with emphasis on that phrase, testifying to all of us that he knew by what power this miracle was occurring. 

Life happens.  We are a broken people and we all have broken others' hearts. Today, I loved seeing what can happen if we submit to His plan.  The bride and groom's joy was contagious - their family was whole.

"Remain in my love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete." John 15:9, 11

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

We all have various traditions for Thanksgiving.  My family watches the Macy's parade, has a frozen cranberry dessert as an essential component of our Thanksgiving meal, and we sing Christmas carols later in the evening to inagurate the season.

About 25 years ago, my mom did something that didn't really become a tradition, rather it became a daily part of her life as my mother.  She spoke specific blessings into my life.  On Thanksgiving, when I was about 10 or 11, my mom gave me a letter of thanks.  I don't have the letter, or even remember what it said except that it was deeply personal and it made me cry.  I felt loved and understood; seen and known.

Remembering this, and realizing that I have an 11 year old, I decided to write to my children for Thanksgiving.  I sat in quiet, pondered what they meant to me, and the words just flowed.  What treasures I have in them!  I pray that my words of blessing over them will become their reality.  What I am thankful for in them is very likely what God is thankful for in them as well.

C.S. Lewis writes famously in The Weight of Glory that each of us will either be like gods or goddesses, or hideous nightmares somedays.  "You have never talked to a mere mortal."  Our responsibility is to recognize that what we we say can nudge persons towards one path or the other.  Some of us will be breaking bread with people we don't like very much this weekend.  We will express the usual things we are thankful for: possessions, freedom, our families.  But lets also be thankful for the divine spark in our neighbor - the unlovely, the embarrassing, the black sheep of the family were also created in His image.  I believe speaking life and grace into each other expresses our gratitude to God in ways that platitudes never will.  And thank you, Mom, for all the blessings you have spoken into my life.

Monday, November 22, 2010


At bedtime, yesterday, my seven year old daughter curled up in my lap to tell me her many woes.  She had a list of grievances that went back several weeks and she relayed to me all the kids who had been mean to her and hurt her feelings.  Anna cried and could barely get her words out - she was so choked up about the unfairness of it all.  "It ruined my day!" she cried.  I gently reminded her of all the fun she had enjoyed that day: she sang a solo in church and received many compliments, she cooked with me all by herself, she had a friend over, we even took her to a movie, but none of this counted against her broken heart. 

I spoke to my darling girl about forgiveness: what it means, what it costs, and sometimes how it needs to be given even without receiving an apology.  She was shocked by that.  "But Mom, that's like saying 'You're welcome" without someone saying 'thank you' first!  That's....weird!"  I talked to her about how Jesus forgave us even as He was in the act of dying for us, even as mankind was jeering at him.  Anna was quiet.  And then my girl tucked her head close to mine and croaked out in a broken sob, "Mama, sometimes I think I'm not very good."

My daughter is a blessing and joy everyday of her life.  She is sweet-tempered, a truth teller, and never disrespectful.  Everyone would consider her a "good" child.  But even at her tender age, she recognizes that God created her to be good and her heart isn't.  Something is broken. 

I've been thinking about it all day.  She never mentioned again her little wounds.  Anna gave them up the moment she compared herself to how Jesus forgave.  Today, my prayer is that I would do the same.