Christmas memories

I just finished adding all of my December photos to my online album, and if I wasn’t feeling melancholy before (which I was; in fact, I was up for too long in the middle of the night agonizing over the end of another Christmas season), I am now. But I’m also smiling and feeling full.

So full.

We certainly did plenty of wonderful things — Messiah Sing-a-long, school concerts, piano performances, gingerbread house decorating, craft and cookies, evenings of movies by candlelight and books by tree light, birthday parties and Christmas parties, family shopping trip, and wrapping gifts with so much excitement — but looking through the pictures I took, mostly I am thankful for the home I get to make and share with these precious people. We did quite a bit, for sure, but more than outings and commitments, we had days at home together. We sang a Christmas hymn during Circle Time each day, and read from our Christmas book basket. I let go of more cookie-making control than ever before and cringed at the shape and consistency but who really cares?, we did it together. My meal plans were woefully behind and plenty of times I had to remember my favorite advice from Loving the Little Years (“in twenty minutes this crisis will be over–deep breath and get through”), but you can’t do everything and life is real, and who would really actually want to live some glossy magazine spread, anyway? I’m so glad that “special” doesn’t have to mean “pretend.”

And it’s Sunday morning so my contemplations are getting cut short, but suffice to say: I’m really thankful for a beautiful month of celebrating the love of God and our love for others. And it’s an incredible privilege to be at the helm of this home-making, refuge-building, culture-forming enterprise, to see my husband and children enjoying and being built up by my labors.

A week in December

Here we are, one week gone. A week of tree mornings, cookie making and eating, Christmas piano duets, concert prep and trying so hard so focus on school work when what we all want to do is make more cookies and wrap presents! Let the best time of the year begin!

But Christmas isn’t really magic. A string of lights, few candles, and Michael Buble in the background does not, in actuality, deliver us from our sin nature. Hardly. And so we find ourselves in the thick of attitudes and selfishness and Mama running on fumes and all of us in actuality needing Jesus.

And that, my friends, is what Christmas is about. It’s what the angels declared back then and the echo of that declaration still resounds: Jesus came to bring peace between us and a holy God. Through Him, we can find ourselves falling short of the glory of God and then repent, confess our sins, and enjoy fellowship with a loving Father.

So, if in the midst of trying so hard to make lovely memories you find yourself instead confronted with a mess of human nature, instead of yelling, “What’s wrong with you kids? Don’t you know this is supposed to be special??” — realize that this is it! This is why He came! We need Him and we can have Him in all His fullness. Pause. Guide hearts to prepare Him room, to usher Him in. Leave a few “magic” things undone and don’t worry about it so much. Turn, instead, to the miracle. That we, the people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light.

Amazing. It gets me every time. He saw my need — and became the answer.

*****


Christmas is here when the scent of nutmeg and butter fills the kitchen!


Plaid. Everywhere.


Tree. Such a beautiful tradition!


Concert night. 5,000 photos and we’ll settle for this one.


Still, still, still — you can hear the falling snow.

in the bleak mid-winter

Stunning words, perfect harmonies: a favorite Christmas hymn.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am? —
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part, —
Yet what I can I give Him, —
Give my heart.

Listen here.

celebrate

It’s Christmas week.

Celebration begins in earnest, or at least the plans for doing so begin to whip into shape — and isn’t that half the celebration? Calendar out to plan the afternoons for cinnamon roll baking, birthday cake making (Cecily!), and when to start the food for Christmas dinner; kids all out on the town with money burning in their pockets, eyes sharp as they hunt for the perfect sibling gift; me slipping into my room and wrapping what is left (ha! most!) of the gifts while children inevitably follow and knock and whisper loudly, “Can I wrap my gifts yet??”; shopping lists covertly texted to Ryan as I remember all those stocking needs that slipped my mind; and hopefully plenty of evenings together by candlelight, tree light, reading or singing or watching a favorite holiday movie. We are celebrating, after all.

Last night my boys were able to sing in a Christmas cantata that was so beautiful, so well done, and so moving, I literally laid in bed unable to sleep because I was riding such a high of joy and awe and too much wonder to hold. I listened to wave after wave of beautiful sounds, carefully penned and orchestrated by musical craftsmen and wordsmiths, and astonished (again, as I often am) at how many pains are taken to try and give voice to the mind-blowing miracle of Jesus’ birth, God’s gift of redemption. Men and women labor over their offerings of art and expression, their hearts swollen with emotion and the need to contribute their own voice to the chorus of hundreds who have already sung, written, played, painted, danced and otherwise expressed the majesty of God’s love.

I listen to soaring sopranos over fanfare of brass woven with ribbons of string filled in with harmonies that seem to have always existed and someone finally heard them and wrote them down — and I wonder, with such beautiful expressions here, where we only see dimly, what will the song of heaven be like? I weep with the wonder of it, with the aching to express it myself.

And rightly so. It is the story of the Ages, of all mankind.

That I was blind, so very very lost.

And this babe in a manger — He was the gift of sight, the one who came to lead me home.

april in pictures

This spring is winning the award for Most Money Spent Heating Our House. To welcome May 1st, I turned up the thermostat. But rain or no rain, this month promises to be bursting with fun and activity. Before we launch into all of that, a quick bit of reflection. April was…

…days of routine at home,


(I love Beatrice’s drawings!)

…bringing the boys to their NYSSMA performance evaluation, where they both did superbly,


(I tried to get pictures of the boys getting ready to perform, but too many nerves to stand still and smile.)

…Easter celebrations!,

…a few mild days that found us running to be outdoors,

…food, of course,

…presbytery meetings at church, and William receiving prayer,

…and shuttling my four little thespians back and forth to rehearsals. Each drive finds them more and more and more excited to perform this coming weekend!

That’s it! April is done. A fresh page today (true, with many squares filled in already), that can be given completely to Him. He’s got a book, too, and all my days are written in it. Comfort and purpose.

new years eve, 2016

A year is ending. A whole year made up of, really, pretty insignificant days all strung in a row. Some highs, for sure, and definitely some days that felt like a punch in the gut. But mostly, it was just daily kinds of days.

A tapestry woven of time, places, and people. The thread of my life intersecting with my children’s, with my husband’s, with yours. The gold of this situation, the black of that one. The rows and rows of whites and gray that seem to mean little, but what do we know? We aren’t the weaver, we’re just the thread, and this masterpiece will be seen when we’re on the other side.

*****

Feeling, today, thankfulness I can’t even put into words. I am incredibly rich in this season. I am pursued by a God who never gives up on me, who continues to turn over stones and illuminate shadowy corners and sets me free to hope and life and peace I could never have without Him. My husband is a man of incredible wisdom and insight, whose hope is firmly fixed on Jesus alone, who is generous all day long, and who speaks truth to me that sets me free. I have children who are a delight, whose lives were planned by God, and whose destinies I impact every day. Friends, family — abundance. A warm home, food in the cupboards, wool slippers on my feet. From small needs to big, God provides and teaches me in them all. In utter heartache, He hears. For grace to make another dinner cheerfully, He is there. Some years have left me trusting that God willprovide. This year, I am so aware of all He has provided.

*****

Saying goodbye to the year is, first, saying goodbye to a month of special moments.

*****

Already the Holy Spirit is stirring new hunger and expectation in my heart. The sun rises tomorrow to a new calendar year, but our true hope is the promise of eternity — and the foretaste we have now in the presence of His Spirit working out His kingdom come in our lives. He’s making something beautiful. We can trust Him.