canvas tarnished like old silver
charcoal branches pierce fog,
wait for birdsong
When I was a little girl, I thought Christmas should always be on a Sunday. It seemed right to go to church for Christmas, to sing carols, to hear “Merry Christmas” from friends who gathered there. For the last 25 years, we have loved being in a church that celebrates Advent and also always has a Christmas eve communion and candle service. Any day of the week Christmas comes, the gift of Christ’s coming burns in my heart beyond all the gathering and cooking and gifting. This year the calendar said Christmas Eve on Sunday, timing I loved. Today is the 26th. It is quiet. I see some Christmas trees already out for trash and some are already removing lights and decorations.
I will keep Christmas. Decorations and lights will stay for awhile, but I will keep Christmas. The spark that is lit with the candles and carols must light something within me that stays. It will never be something I can clear away and put in a box. So like Mary, I treasure the gift and mystery of Christ’s coming – my Christmas ponders.
But Mary treasured up all these words and pondered them in her heart” Luke 2:19
A few days ago, a rare (for this area) snowfall briefly covered our homes, our gardens, and our church. Young and old rushed to the windows to watch as flakes began to drift down. Later, the rushing was to go outside, to lift faces and palms to the wonder. I often think just when I need the sense of wonder quickened, a gift like this comes to do just that. Wonder at snowfall or the tiniest dewdrop glistening on a rose petal is a nudge to be open, to remain open-eyed, to be receptive to the fullness and expectancy of Advent.
Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder.The wonder keeps us open-eyed and exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make. ~ Eugene Peterson
I did not take this photograph; I do not know where it was taken. It found me. I kept returning to it to think of its story. How many hymns were sung by the faithful in this country chapel? How many wedding vows repeated as families began? How does the color of the glass glow when lit from inside at twilight?
I am grateful for those stories, the message of endurance told by weathered wood and stained glass.
Globe Amaranth, Gomphrena
This flower is small but you almost never see just one or two plants. They have visual impact because they are usually seen massed together in a flower bed. That could be because there are so many seeds in a bloom not much bigger than the end of my thumb. Every petal becomes a seed. I once had Joe stop by a road for me to collect a couple of flower heads because that particular patch was a variety called Strawberry Fields – bright red pom poms waving in the sun.
It may be a stretch, but as I held this flower my granddaughter picked, an odd comparison floated up in my mind. I recently read in a morning quiet time the phrase “sturdy faith.” The words stuck and I have frequently considered what it means to have that quality, so necessary in a world of confusion and uncertainty.
Thrives in heat and does not need pampering.
Blooms nearly nonstop
Good for cutting and drying to share in many ways.
Attracts butterflies, adding to our garden’s beauty.
Harvesting promotes flower production.
Fort Bend County and the wider Houston metroplex news continues to zoom in on the destruction left by Hurricane Harvey and subsequent river and reservoir floodings. Heartbreaking stories are shared in media and personal conversations. In the aftermath, churches like our own, schools, gyms, fairground and convention centers shelter thousands and thousands of displaced, hurting people who have nothing and need everything. Donation centers dot our streets and neighborhoods. Food, clothing, and personal items were immediately necessary and as people have been allowed to reenter the warzone images of their sodden former homes, they need cleaning supplies and building materials plus the physical presences of helpers to demolish and repair.
In our immediate area, schools finally started this week and boxes that had contained sorted shoes quickly emptied. One friend who is volunteering at NRG center in Houston, reported a woman left wearing mismatched shoes because that was all that was available in her size and she had to have shoes. Friends who live just down the road from us tore out sheetrock, gutted their kitchen, and were thankful they had moved photographs to the second floor before they evacuated. A response to their story was sad, reporting they had put their wedding album and all family photos on top of the desk before they left. But the desk floated and the photos are gone or destroyed.
The photo above is from Rockport, down the coast from us, closer to Corpus Christi, where Harvey made landfall and left shattered homes, businesses, and dreams. They do not even know when their school can start because they are closed indefinitely. The picture made me think of the last time we were there – All our family at the time stayed in small cottages for a few days. There was kayaking, picnics, fishing – fun together. I then thought how the many who return to a picture of homes so sadly changed.
There will be more stories and hard work ahead in restoration. It will take alot of helping and alot of time. Once again, I thank God for the helping. For the hope.
“We are all in the same boat, on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.” GK Chesterton
I learned to love roses from my grandmother
why did I never take a picture of her cutting roses to bring inside
to put in a jar in the middle of a table
dressed with a white tablecloth she had ironed
so Sunday dinner could be offered to the preacher and his wife
or family could sit down to fried chicken and peas from the garden
or tea cakes and cold milk shared with a skinny brown-eyed girl
she only had that one rose bush under the front window of the farmhouse
bearing teacup sized yellow blooms that smelled as pretty as they looked
she only had that one rose bush
but it was enough
enough for her to grace food offered on mismatched china
enough to brighten the room they called a sleeping porch
enough to make a little girl remember
I wish I had a picture of her with those roses
I have her table, even the tablecloth
I have her love of one rose bush
I have grandchildren to help me pick roses
it is enough
Even in our most cherished moments, it’s there—this “something more,” a feeling that all life can offer is not enough. C. S. Lewis says of our best experiences, “They are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”