I've left behind the daily grind to write full time and to figure out what my own flourishing tree looks like. I'd love to help you flourish and grow along the way, so that you, too, can cultivate a life that pleases God.
Friday brings a change to the White House, a power shift in Washington. I hope—whether you’ll be commiserating with family and friends, celebrating, or marching in protest—that you’ll take a few moments first to ponder darkness and light, contempt and compassion, condemnation and grace.
I’ve seen buzz growing around the idea of going dark on Facebook this Friday by posting a completely black rectangle where your cover photo would normally be. I confess the idea has some appeal to me, but I also know I have to carefully guard my own soul and heart and mind from settling in with dark thoughts and fears.
Church this past Sunday offered a scripture reading that reminded me of an essential truth to cling to in the days and weeks and months ahead. God calls each of us to reflect God’s light to others:
I will also make You a light of the nations, that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth. — Isaiah 49:6
Men may dam it and say that they have made a lake, but it will still be a river. It will keep its nature and bide its time, like a caged animal alert for the slightest opening.
— Wendell Berry
I bought a rain gauge Friday and put it in the ground. From Friday to Monday afternoon, the gauge showed 3.3 inches of rain. There was another round yesterday, and my rain gauge showed another 3.6 inches since Monday. It’s quite possible I haven’t set the gauge in a good place, and we had high winds yesterday that could have blown extra water from plants into the gauge. But we’ve had a lot more water around here than usual.
This area typically gets about 20 inches of rain in a year—measured for some reason from October 1 through September 30—and last year (a drought year), we got just 16 inches of rain for the year.
Last week, as the storm approached, friends on social media began talking about stocking up on storm supplies: batteries, canned food, even MREs. The newspaper offered suggestions about where to get sandbags. I asked my husband if we, in doing none of those things, were perhaps a little too calm about what was coming, and he reminded me we’re high enough above the river that we’d be okay.
In the past few days, I’ve seen young coyotes and deer running hard for high ground, looking bewildered by this turn of events. Ducks have new ponds to swim in. The county has closed off parks near the river. And the river rages.
In some rare sunny moments these last few days—before and after the storm—I headed out with my camera to the river and a nearby dam.
Water officials began releasing water from the dam in advance of the storm.
Happy New Year! I hope your year is off to a great start.
Four years ago (how can four years have passed since then?), I shared T.S. Eliot’s beautiful passage about last year’s words and next year’s words. These early January days have me looking back at last year’s writing and anticipating what will become of my work for this year.
In December, right on the heels of NaNoWriMo, I had the opportunity to speak with author John Vonhof about my experiences writing a novel in the month of November. My conversation with him is available now as a podcast on his site: Writers & Authors on Fire. I hope you’ll check it out! And if you’re also a writer, his series is a fantastic resource of encouragement and practical advice for writing and publishing.
One thing I didn’t mention in my conversation with him is the twelve pens I ran out of ink in November.
The fruits of my NaNoWriMo labors: two full notebooks and twelve empty pens
Ah, Christmas. Another one has come and gone. You’ve opened your presents (perhaps already returning one or two). If you hosted Christmas at your home, your refrigerator is probably starting to have some space in it again, though your freezer may still be stuffed.
Some of you may have taken down your Christmas decorations and packed them away until next year, ready to be done with the holidays. Removing decorations at our house often depends on my husband’s schedule, but I love to leave them up until Three Kings Day/Epiphany.
The book of Matthew tells us of one more party after Christ’s birth, one last hurrah, before things got really tough for Jesus and Mary and Joseph (and for their neighbors, too). The story centers on the arrival of the magi.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship him.” … and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. — Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
When we think of the magi, we envision kings and crowns and camels and three presents, and that’s often how nativity scenes depict them.
What happened to December? I blinked, and here we are right at the brink of Christmas. My to-do list feels manageable most days until there’s a delay I wasn’t counting on—like a sick pup earlier this week (she’s getting better). Or the morning spent sitting trapped in a parking lot for 20 minutes waiting for a some-might-argue useless valet to point me to an empty space. All so I could go inside and wait another 30 minutes at the big ham store. (The inside line went much faster than I was expecting, but the ‘bah-humbugger’ in me had already taken over.)
Anyway, Christmas is coming, whether we get everything done just the way we want.
When I polled you a couple of weeks back about your favorite nativity figures, the overwhelming majority of you said your favorites are Jesus, Mary and Joseph (aka the holy family).
Today, let’s remember that Christmas can be as simple as celebrating the birth of the Savior. And also honoring the young man and young woman who traveled to Bethlehem and, while there, brought Him into the world.
Of all my nativity scenes, these two versions of the holy family are my favorite. The one above because of its simplicity and the one below because my mother painted them for me as part of a larger nativity set.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. —Luke 2:4-7
Merry Christmas, my friends! I hope your travels will be easy, your joys immeasurable and your heart light in the coming days. Even if you still have to wait in line at the big ham store.
A question for you: if the baby Jesus is separate from the manger in your nativity, do you put Him in there as soon as you put up the rest of your nativity? Or do you wait until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?