It’s the twelfth day of Christmas

It’s the twelfth day of Christmas and my tree is still up. So are most of our decorations too, although I have started to collect those by the stairs to the basement, where they sit waiting to be put away. The clutter is starting to get to me  and I’m longing for sparse, cleaned out spaces. Yet I keep hoping for a few more  peaceful, reflective moments by the tree in the dark with only the tree lights bringing illumination – so up it stays.

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Our Christmas was normal in the sense that there was much beauty. Watching the golden glow over everyone’s face from the candles and the vibrations of the voices singing silent night acapella during Christmas Eve service always leaves a holy lump in my throat. We went cross country skiing in the crisp light, shining half way through the trees in the woods where I feel so alive. My kids asked to buy thoughtful gifts for each other with their own hard earned money. There was no bickering. Aaron made an amazing dinner. I was once again left filled with awe over God come down as a baby – try looking at a baby and not believing in good, in hope, in miracles.

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Our Christmas was normal in the sense that there was much brokenness. My extended family had to cancel our plans for a celebration together – our first in five years because my mom’s recovery from her last surgery related to a tumor found this summer was much rougher than expected. Once we had come to some sort of resolve about my mom, and our loss of family plans, my dad collapsed unexpectedly doing Christmas Eve church. (He’s a pastor have I said that here before?) He spent the rest of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in ICU while his heart kept slowing much too slow, so slow they had to encourage it to keep going, awaiting pacemaker surgery that will keep him alive on Boxing Day.

My guess is your Christmas was somewhat the same. Your brother in law talked obnoxious politics. You had time with a special loved one who lives far away or who might not be around much longer. Someone drank way too much, way too often. Reading about the grinch’s heart expanding mended your own – just a bit. You had to host, or you couldn’t.

There was that moment when you connected under the full moon with something holy. You had to see people you are related too, instead of the people your heart yearned for. Your kids loved all your simple traditions and told you that they were just so happy being together. Someone you love is sick or abused or lonely or dead. You received a gift that showed how known you are. Something(s) like this.

Because this is the normal isn’t it, even or maybe especially at Christmas. Beauty and brokeness all around. Heaven and hope mixed with sadness and disappointment and loss. Full moons and bright stars and a refugee baby who holds promise of kingdom (not yet fully) come.

I think that is why my tree is still up – I want a few more days to ponder that promise of love came down to bring new life in the post holiday season stillness. I want a few more days to ponder how much I have and yet how much I still need the grace of that promise. I need a few more days to re-believe that one day all will be counted for beauty.

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Flowers and prayer

Turns out flowers remind me to pray.

This year since the peonies bloomed in June I’ve kept a vase of flowers in the middle of my kitchen island. They are anchored in the middle of my kitchen because they are beautiful yes but also to remind me to continue praying as I go about my day. A little talisman reminding me that even when it feels like I can do nothing and the whole world is going to shit – I am wrong. I can do something. I can pray.

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These days there is basically nothing I understand about prayer except that it helps me see God and my soul tells me it isn’t ever futile. I don’t know how it works. I don’t know why miracles sometimes happen or why sometimes in spite of prayer tragedies happen.

But if I can be a little honest here where I feel a little safe, I must admit I’m growing to love it that way. My made from stardust self is growing to embrace the mystery and the uncertainty and to keep on praying anyway. I’m starting to see prayer as both an incredibly obedient and an incredibly gutsy act of faith. Thinking about the idea that we pray because we are so loved by God that we are invited to join into a incomprehensible holy act can take my breath away. Thinking about people and God outpouring love together makes me weep.

So I replaced those flowers every week and I prayed. I prayed for Syria, I prayed for our earth, I prayed for all the hurting and hungry. I prayed for my friends, their parent, their children. I prayed for my parents, my children, my husband. I prayed for myself. I lamented and I rejoiced and I said prayers of thanksgiving that we are all abundantly loved by a God of new life. I prayed that I keep being both brave and trusting enough to participate in the mystery.

Part one on flowers here

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Flowers

When we moved out to our acreage five summers ago I didn’t really care about growing flowers. I spent the first three years trying to establish a veggie garden and planting more fruit trees and bushes. There was an extremely neglected flower bed outside our front door – the one we hardly ever use but I ignored it in my pursuits to grow things that could feed us.

Last summer I finally had kids that were old enough to have energy left over to care that I felt embarrassed about that neglected spot in our yard so I planted a few rose bushes I found on sale.  Those few bushes I threw in to cover my shame ended up bringing me so much goodness I’ve inadvertently become a flower gardener.

Turns out it’s quite therapeutic for me to head out every morning in my bare feet to see what is blooming, pull a few dead heads here and there while I sip coffee in pjs. Sometimes I get warmed through and through by the sun. Other days I put my old housecoat my grandmother gave me when I was a teenager and the rain drips down into my eyes. Of late I have to watch that I don’t slip on the ice that has formed on our deck during the night as it melts beneath my still bare feet. Turns out all of it feels like heaven.

Turns out I love the colours and the growth, looking for new plants and trading with friends. Turns out growing flowers helps me feel present and alive. Turns out I hear God out there.

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Back Home

We came home from vacation yesterday. Aaron and I spent yesterday doing all the just got home after a few weeks away camping type things. Seven loads of laundry, mowing the lawn, unloading the leftover odds and ends of groceries. Cleaning all the beach sand and keep kids occupied while driving obscene amounts of both distance and time items out of the van. Those types of things. Life type of things.

Today we were right back at it. All the kids had VBS this morning (I’m volunteering) and Liam went back to soccer skills training. Aaron was at the office for 13 hours trying to get a little caught up there.

I picked our raspberries and our beans – the tomatoes are starting to ripen and the peas were a bust this year. We sorted and distributed 500 or so pounds of fruit from my parents no spray orchard to my food coop friends out of our kitchen. We hit up the library to return read books and pick up some new items on hold. We needed milk and a few other basics so we went to the grocery store too.

Moving from camping holidays where the pace is so slow and steady (even monotonous at times) to the first few filled overflowing days at home leaves me off kilter. I’m happy to be home: to sleep on sheets with no sand in them and to have a longer shower where I’m not wearing flip flops because the campsite shower floors are always dirty.  But I’m also dizzy at all there is to do.

Those first few days I’m always wondering what to do next until the catch up is done and things are back to our normal home rhythms. Where we are moving from the wonder and beauty of being all together outdoors by the sea to the wonder that is our everyday life.

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This weeks chalkboard wisdom. Art by Haven.

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