Monday, December 24, 2018

I Don't Forget

At bedtime tonight, Kachi wanted me to rush through prayers. "Just say three things!" he whispered after he finished, before I began to pray.  It's Christmas Eve, after all, and he is far too excited for a prolonged period of silence.
So I prayed my truncated prayer, and picked up the story.
"Wait," he asked, "did you pray the neighbour part?"
"No," I shook my head, "do you want me to?"
"Yes please," he asked.
So I quickly asked God to help us to love our neighbours as ourselves, and Kachi said, "you know, I don't forget that you're my neighbour, mama."

And now he is snoring against my back, my precious little neighbour.

And Jesus, too.

He didn't forget us.
He didn't forget that we're his neighbours.
He came down, moved into the neighbourhood, took on humanity.

And loved us as himself.

Wishing you so much joy as you celebrate with your loved ones this Neighbour who did not forget - and does not forget - to love us as himself.


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Love Came Down at Christmas

Patrick and I fell in love at Christmas.

We'd been chatting on MSN for a few weeks when he invited me to his parents' place for Christmas. I said yes, and booked a train ticket to Toronto, where he was going to school, and then we bought a pair of tickets to take us both up to Northern Ontario.

I was so excited to see him, to spend time with him in person, but also so nervous. We'd only met in person once, so briefly, for less than five minutes. What if he misremembered what I was like? What if he was disappointed in me, in person? What if I was too ugly, or too tall, too frizzy, too freckly? What if he saw me arrive at the train station and decided to turn and walk away?

When I disembarked at Union Station, I couldn't find him. I found my bag, and then stood on the platform, waiting. As each minute ticked by, I grew more certain that he'd changed his mind, and didn't want this stranger infringing on his Christmas after all.  He wasn't coming. He must have seen me and decided to slip away.  I hadn't slept much on the way up, and nerves had prevented me from eating. The room began to spin.

Suddenly there he was, striding through the crowd, cheeks bright and eyes apologetic.  He walked straight up to me and put his arms around me and held me close.

The whole world stood still.

There was nothing else but the relief and joy of his embrace; no drafty room, no thrum of trains beneath my feet, no strangers spinning in a panicky whirl. Just Patrick.

He had come for me after all.
He loved me.

I knew it before our first kiss, before we'd ever held hands, before we ate our first meal together.

Because he could have been anywhere else, but he was right here, hugging me and not letting go.

And I know Jesus loves me, because

He came for us.
He did not leave us alone in the dizzying, spinning universe.

He came.
Because he loves us.
He has loved us from the beginning.
He came for his own, and he will not let go.


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Ordinary and In Between

Right now, Pascal and Kachi are sleeping. Vava is cuddled up with Patrick, watching a cartoon Anne of Green Gables. Sam is playing Super Mario on the Wii. A soft glow is shining outside, the magic of streetlights on snow, and I am sitting by the window, watching their faces. 

I love them so much. 

There's a picture I've seen circulating on Facebook lately, a painting of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus. Joseph is sitting, leaning up against the wall, and Mary is lying on the floor next to the manger. Starlight gleams on the Baby's face. 

It captures a stillness I don't often think about - after the flurry of birth, before the hurrying in of awestruck shepherds. Usually I see paintings of the Big Moments of that holy night. Angels announcing. Innkeepers refusing. Shepherds adoring. I tend to think about the moments that are recorded - and not the great homely gaps in between. 

But in my own life, the moments that are the sweetest, the deepest, the true ones that make a sort of glue that presses heart close to heart, they're not particularly noteworthy. They're not awards ceremonies or great achievements. They're just the ordinary goodness of the everyday. Sam holding Pascal's hand as he helps him to the swing set. Vava teaching Kachi how to draw a polar bear. The kids deciding to have a puppy lunch, eating from bowls on the floor. Playing Wii and watching YouTube.

I love that the artist shared a glimpse of the glorious ordinary in that first Christmas. Holy, beautiful, restful - and ordinary. 

This Christmas, in between the bright spots - the guests, the presents, the tree, the toasts - may the simple gift of your ordinary moments fill your hearts with peace, my friends. 

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Grownups are like Pascal!

We had a snow day today - or a rain day - a bad weather day, and Sam's little friend was with us for the day.

At lunch time, Vava non-sequitered, "If anyone is sad because they don't have a daddy, they can be happy because" - and here she paused, and pointed up.

"Because God's our father," finished Sam's friend.

"Even Mama's," Sam laughed, "And compared to God, Mama's a baby."

"Mama's like Pascal," Vava hooted, "and we're all one day old!"

"Grownups are like Pascal! The whole world is just babies!"  

And the table erupted with laughter and the conversation veered away, but it left me smiling because exactly.


We're all just babies and we need Him. Which is why Jesus came to us as one of us -

As an absolute baby.
Immanuel; God with us.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Risen with Healing in His Wings

I had a miserable morning. Woke up tired, Patrick was gone, everything just seemed sad.
I missed my old friends. Missed my family. Felt like a failure at everything.
Once the kids got on the bus, I brought Scally home and just cried.  I could have used one of Kachi's classic lines: I wish everything was nothing.
One of those days, you know?

My heart was a turtle flipped upside down, exposed and immobile and futile.
And I begged God for help, to come and turn it rightside up.

And He did a strange thing.

A simple and sort of silly thing.

He reminded me of that old Sunday school joke.  Teacher asks: what's grey, climbs trees, and stores nuts for the winter? Student puts up hand, replies: I want to say squirrel, but I'm gonna say ... Jesus?  (Because as every Sunday school kid knows, whatever the question, the answer is always Jesus.)

So if the answer is Jesus, I asked, where is He, in this miserable morning?  And he gave me that mundane and practical answer: at the end of your arms.

So I put on my jacket and packed up Pascal and we bought some people lunch and gave some Christmas presents and along the way I discovered what I had forgotten:

In God's upsidedown kingdom, fullness isn't found by gathering more for myself, but in pouring out.

Like He poured His love out on us, by coming to us.
Like He poured out His rightful glory and took on flesh.
Like He poured out His might and took on the helplessness of infancy, of poverty.

And brought salvation living and breathing into the world.

Yes. Even now, with two thousand years of well-worn Christmases, that old miracle still holds.  Giving does not make emptiness, but fullness.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Joy: God with Us

My sister said it best.

Click here to hear her message about Advent Joy: God with us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Dear To Us

Last year was our first year at the kids' new school.
Whenever I would go to the school, I would see other parents talking together, saying hello, asking after each other's families.
I didn't know anyone, so just stood awkwardly trying not to let my stroller be too much in anybody's way.

Today was concert day - kindergarten concert in the morning, and big kid concert in the afternoon. We decided to make a lazy morning of it, and sleep in a bit, have pancakes, and so I drove the kids to school instead of putting them on the bus.

I met friends at drop off, met friends at the kinder concert, met friends at the big kid concert, and met friends when I popped into the office to drop off Christmas presents for the teachers.  Bright spots all over the place, quick hellos and beautiful faces. Hugs and how's-it-goings. Friends.

When Mary was pregnant with Jesus, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John (the forerunner, the baptizer, the one who would prepare repentant hearts to receive their king). When they drew near, John leapt for joy in Elizabeth's womb - rejoicing with that oneness in the Spirit, that deep, truest sort of friendship.

I love that God doesn't just give us eyes that remember each other - he gives us hearts that recognize one another, hearts that leap for joy, and spirits that resound with His.  He gives us this great gift in our wild and lonely world - not under our Christmas tree, but hopefully around it: friends.

I hope your Christmas season is warmed with the presence of those you love and know, dear friends.

Monday, December 17, 2018

On Dressing -

I went to a Nordic spa this weekend for my friend's bachelorette party. Saunas, rock pools, salt scrubs, repeat. It was glorious.  The day was filled with laughs and good food and drink and genuine heart-healing love as we celebrated our friend's touch in all our lives.

The day before, though, I was stressing about having to spend a whole day in my bathing suit.

As usual, I turned to my siblings for help and my sister gave me some wonderful advice.
'The only person who will be worried about your body,' she said, 'is you.'

My sisters are pretty much always right but this was so mind-blowingly right (and obvious! Why didn't I think of this 30 years ago?), it just set me free.

And once I determined not to worry about my body in a bathing suit, I enjoyed myself completely.  The grand total of people worrying about my bathing suit body: 0.

If you can't find the right thing to wear this Christmas - parties, services, concerts, dinners, whatever - don't worry.  The One whose birthday we're celebrating was wrapped up in swaddling clothes.

And he doesn't look on our outward appearance, but on the hearts He came to redeem and fill and make lovely.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Neighbourhood

We were so blessed with our neighbours in Thunder Bay.

When we first moved to Heron St, people were like "eep! Not that neighbourhood!"  We were warned of violence, hookers, theft.


It was an amazing neighbourhood.
We had neighbours all around us who loved us, cared for us, blessed us, watched out for us, baked for us, and spent time with us.

There were front porch conversations and back-fence plate-passings.  There were secret snow-shovelings and help with putting out the garbage.  One neighbour saw us struggling with a dying battery in our truck, and he brought us an amazing battery (it's still going strong in our lumbering beast of a truck).  There were special treats for our kids at birthdays, Hallowe'en, Christmas, Easter. I didn't make my own cakes the entire time we lived there, thanks to our sweet Ywetta. No, I can't imagine ever having neighbours as lovely as the ones we had on Heron St.

I don't think you can know a neighbourhood until you live in it.  What seemed like a rough part of town was actually a warm and loving street full of kindness and care.  And sometimes a quiet, upscale neighbourhood can be the coldest place in the world.

So when I read the very brief Christmas story in John's gospel in the Message, I just loved it so much.

The Word became flesh and blood, 
and moved into the neighbourhood. 
We saw the glory with our own eyes, 
the one-of-a-kind glory, 
like Father, like Son, 
generous inside and out, 
true from start to finish. 
(John chapter 1, verse 14)

Jesus moved into the neighbourhood.  He moved right in. Right here.  Got to know us. Became one of us.  Knows our hurts, our struggles, our lives from the inside out.

God sent His own lovely Son into our neighbourhood.
To know us.
To show us love.
To teach us wisdom.
To forgive our sins.
And to reveal God to us, up close and personal.

Merry Christmas, dear friends - to you and your neighbours :).

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Wait With Us

This morning, like every morning this month, my kids fly downstairs as soon as they wake up. "Is it Christmas yet?" And they consult their Advent calendars. The little door flaps open, offering a chocolate to count their waiting. One day closer. One day closer.

Today we were driving through Ottawa and went past a church with a message board on its outside wall.

"Wait with us through the Advent season," it read.

Waiting isn't a terribly popular activity.
We want to get to the thing. We like doing, we like achieving, we like a clear and tidy ending.

When Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple on the 8th day.

There they met Simeon and Anna, two righteous and devout worshipers who were waiting for the Messiah.  They had been waiting their whole lives - and they were what Sam would call "very elderly."

They waited.
And waited.
And waited.

And when the fullness of time had come, on this particular day, they finally received their Christ.

All of that waiting, wondering "is this the day? Is this the day? Maybe this will be the day?"

And Jesus came.
Precious baby, Holy Messiah, light for all the world.

They had been waiting for him like my kids count down til Christmas. Their hearts were looking for him, their hopes were pinned on seeing him.

And every year I count through my own Advent, waiting for him. Looking for him.  "You will find me," he said, "when you seek me with all your heart."

And in the slowing of myself to wait for Advent to move through the calendar, I find stillness.  I find space. I find depth. And I find hope in waiting for the truest Christmas - when I, like Anna and Simeon, will see the Lord's Christ.

Merry Christmas friends.

Friday, December 14, 2018

In Case We Missed it the First Time

I was hunting through my blog for a certain post I wrote a while ago, and came across some old Christmas posts. I read one where I had written about the angel telling Joseph not to be afraid.  So tonight, when I was reading through Luke 1 and 2, that was in the back of my mind, and I noticed something.


I have been writing these posts for years.
I have been reading the Christmas story all Advent long for years.
And somehow I missed it.

There are four times angels appear in the Christmas story.
To Zechariah.
To Mary.
To Joseph.
To the shepherds.

And at every single appearance, they start by saying the same thing.
(Every single one!)

Do not be afraid.
Do not be afraid.
Do not fear.
Fear not.

That is why God sent Jesus.
To sing, to shout, to declare, to whisper: fear not.  I will save my people from their sins.

And fear can choke out freedom. Fear can smother and inhibit and stunt our hearts from loving, seeing, trusting.  Fear can send us reeling with doubt, and, like Zechariah, we could hear God's declaration of new life and still look an angel in the face and, fearful, say "Do you expect me to believe this?"  Fear has kept us hiding since the day Adam and Eve took cover in Eden. Long lay the world, in sin and error pining - 

And God sent Jesus.
And God said

Fear not.
Do not fear.
Do not be afraid.
Do not be afraid.

For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

What Child is This?

At bedtime tonight, Pascal picked this really simple little Bible story book.  He wanted to see fishes, so we read about Jonah, and then turned to this page.

"Who's that?" I asked him, pointing to the baby, before reading anything.
He smiled, "Christmas."

Ohh baby, you don't know how right you are.

God's Christ, given for all the world.

This, this is Christmas.


(PS check out this spectacular version of What Child Is This.)