Naming the Year

The snow finally comes, blowing in powder-white and fine, mixed with snow-globe glitter.  There are a hundred things to do and dinner is simmering on the stove when he says come, leave the to-do and come outside in the night with the kids. I look around at all the things I should be doing and somewhere alone the way I have lost touch what I want to be doing and I hesitate and drag my feet.

And I do. I do go.

The lights from the city below cast themselves upward, bleed into a cloud-hung sky and tint the heavens soft peach-pink.  All around, falling and blowing, the snow envelops and cushions and sweeps over the earth.  The streetlights are halos of glitter, silver glinting and laughing around orbs of light, pinpricks of brilliance among the blowing white.  Our footsteps mark the new snow, first to fall there in the blanketed white.  There is the silence that a snow-storm brings, the muffled quiet of a world paused to wonder at this beauty, a world wrapped and blanketed in softness.  The edges of everything are blurred, blunted.  The sharpness has worn off, has been padded and made gentle under a cover of white. It is a world transformed.

Youngest runs ahead, her footsteps small in the new-fallen snow.  She is a little, dark-dancing point on the horizon in the strange new landscape of blunted-white, an angel in a brown ski-coat dancing under the strange pink sky.  We listen to the silence and feel the purr of snow under our feet, the icy prick of snow on our faces.  Along the way, Christmas lights blink from rooftops and under eves.  Yellow-gold light glows from windows where Christmas trees stand watch.

There has been turmoil and tragedy and there has been soul-wrenching love and blessings that confound me in these few weeks around Christmas.  My mind feels as thickly blanketed as the snowy landscape before me, where everything has slowed and the cars line up crawling toward where they need to go, one after the other on the road in front of our house.  It has been a season that so far escapes words.

Ann says to name the year, and I don’t know if I can find the words to do so.  Here with this white world, a tabula rasa, a new year ahead like a sheet of white paper and me holding the pen, black ink and where do I lay it down?  What form should the words take?  Perhaps more than other years, my heart knows that it is not my ink that spills across the page, not my hand that holds the pen.

I can only give a name to what I choose to do with the ink that’s given, the ink that’s spilled.  That’s the best we can do:  take what is written and use it as best we can to point to the One who is author of it all.

There is much that is ahead and my heart wants to know what is written now, to read ahead to the last pages of this chapter and not wait for the unfolding of the story. But like any good writer, the Author holds me captive and the story unfolds in front of me a page at a time, holds me here in this this sentence, in the paragraph of now.

So…to name the year, when words escape you.  This much I know:  it is a year of submission to His will.  It is a year of gentleness, of slow intention.  It is a year of living faith out loud, of putting action to the Word written by the Author who knows our story best.

It is the year of Living His Will.

Living His Will, not just suffering it or submitting to it or going along with it.  The year of putting faith into action, quietly and with conscious intent.  It is the year of living out the Word and passing it on through the quiet message of our lives, lived.


Yes, You are with us

The lights glow on the tree, reflect twin points of light against squares of window glass, made mirrors by the darkness beyond. There is music playing softly, there is a fire flickering behind me and there is a hush over everything, a blanket of quiet and peace that feels tangible.  It is thick and warm around us.

I sit holding this bundle, this newborn baby whose eyes keep drifting to the lights behind me.  I remember the Christmas that Youngest was this age, remember sitting like this with her and watching her…wondering at her wonder.  What is it about new life that is so indescribable?  The children stop and kiss his head, laugh at the faces he makes.  Hubby and I take turns trying to make him smile.

His brother, older by twelve short months, is here now too.  I am thankful for my older three, who have stepped up and joyfully shared in caring for the babies.  I am thankful for those who heard of the need and provided gifts…beautifully wrapped with love…for the babies’ Christmas.  In the midst of the grief and struggle and pain their family is facing, there is this bright spot, this outpouring of love.  And there is the aching knowledge that as hard as we will try, it’s in God’s hands.  There is the edge of uncertainly and we learn to live with it, because it is all we can do.

There is something about this, the babies and the Christmas lights and the way the pace has changed.  I feel it deeply when I hold the new one, this tiny baby and all around us is the celebration that revolves around a newborn babe and holding one now seems to bring it home.  I think of Mary and of Joseph.  I think of the Word made flesh and the God who created the universe contained in a body like this, a scrap of seven-something pounds who struggles to hold up his head and needs every need cared for, who relies entirely on others for every want.  It defies words, it leaves only a speechless awe aching in my heart to think of this.

Youngest cups her hands around the tiny face, kisses his wrinkled brow.  She is almost out of the room when she turns and says it shyly, says it quiet.

“Mommy, with all the Christmas lights and the music and everything, it kind of feels like the baby is Jesus.”

My first impulse is to correct her.  No, that’s not right…you can’t say that of this ordinary babe, this little one. 

But then it catches in my heart,  the words are fighting in my head and I am overwhelmed by this:  The words that the Saviour born a newborn babe some two thousand ago spoke to his friends…“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

And I choke it out, past the tears, that yes, in a way, this baby is Jesus.  Yes, He is the orphan and the fatherless and Yes, He is the widow and the homeless and Yes, He is the sick and the broken and the overlooked and Yes, He is with us most of all when we are caring for Him by caring for the least of these. 

The Christmas lights become star bursts through my tears and Yes, Lord, Yes.  You are with us. 

You are with us always.


Gratitude Journal…my heart is full

It is less than a week now, less than a week until we celebrate the day of Christ’s birth.  Most of the “have-to’s” are finished, the week lies ahead of us like a blank canvas ready to fill.  My heart, already, is full.  Filled with awe at the beauty of all of this, filled to overflowing with the love of family near and far, the love of church family and the fullness, the exquisite beauty of it all. Filled with the Spirit that flows with love through each of us, that fills until you think you cannot hold any more and then grows you until yes, there is room and the abundance is everlasting, ever-growing, ever-giving.  Blessings to each of you this Christmas week!  Thank you to the One who gives us all that is beautiful, all that is good.  To the one who came, the God of all creation in the body of a helpless baby, to give us life. 

501. The quality of light that settles in the living room when the Christmas lights are on and the fire it going
502. Angels in tinsel wings
503. Church family
504. Big red hair ribbons, fancy dresses worn with winter boots
505. Children singing Christmas carols
506. One last year to be an angel in the church play
507. The snow (will we have it for Christmas?)
508. Quite moments by the tree
509. The generosity of friends towards those in need
510. The feeling of the Spirit filling church, filling hearts

In, on, and around Monday….for a moment

The old rhythm comes back quickly, it has been stored up deep in my bones where it lay these eight years, dormant.  The years pass and the mind forgets, but somehow the motions of mothering an infant have stayed true and fresh, wrapped tightly ’round sinew and bone like a double helix deep in the soul. The steady rock, the gentle bounce, the swaying motions are as instinctual as breathing, a primal need to give, to protect.

It is somewhere in the shadowy hours of early morning, that no-man’s land time of day when nothing stirs, when all is dark and quiet and warm, womb-like and soft as velvet.  I sway, hold the bottle just so.  In my arms, a wisp of a baby boy lies still, drinks in.  His eyes are dark in the faint light coming from the hall, his brow wrinkled with some neonatal question, some deep thought.  Tiny hands reach out, find mine.  Wrap like soft cords around my finger and hold, hold.

I lay my cheek against the curve of his head, the impossible softness of newborn skin.  His breath is milky and soft, I feel the sleep take over his tiny body one part at a time, feel the tension ease and he becomes somehow heavier as he gives in to sleep.  The heater kicks on and I hear warm air glide into the room, I hear the clock ticking out this moment in tiny increments and the dog at the foot of the bed sighs, re-arranges in her sleep.  The baby’s breath comes steady, even, slow. I stroke his tiny fingers, wrapped round mine, feel his grip loosen, fade. 

In this quiet moment none of it matters, he is not my child and I will choose to love him as though he were for the time he is here, and yes, he will break my heart and yes, he will not remember this but yes, it matters and it is worth it and somehow even the breaking is a gift.  Everything I cannot fix for him does not matter in this quiet moment, I can only love him for his mother now and I have found that holding back is not possible, the love comes just the same as it did for each of mine, it is what will mend and what will fill the broken places and it does not matter that this is only now, it is all I can give and it is enough and nowhere near enough, both at the same time.

Caring for a newborn this week, blessed and overwhelmed and tired and joyful and so many other things.  Prayers, please, for this sweet child and his sick father and his care-worn mother and his 13 month old brother, too. 

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