Even in a world that’s being shipwrecked, remain brave and strong.
Hildegard von Bingen Continue reading
This has been my third Christmas in Asheville and my second in this apartment. Having moved to a new city three years ago, I am still very intentional as I build friendships and create memories/traditions. These are the things that make a place to live into a home to cherish. There are some new annual ‘happenings’ that have begun to feel like traditions and then there are the traditions that have followed me throughout life. They are somehow connected making a bridge of life’s story. During these last three years my bridge has been well-traveled.
As I look at my home decorated with new and old, this year I have enjoyed taking time to remember. While opening boxes marked ‘Christmas’, I uncovered my childhood stocking. Mother made that stocking. She sewed stockings for each of us when we were young and seeing its simple design reminded me of our family traditions. Painted cookies on the tree, Christmas eve services late into the night, waking on Christmas morn to find the crèche complete with ‘baby Jesus’ lying in the manger, these are memories that created the foundation of my life. A foundation that has been tested throughout the years and remains trustworthy.
While laying this stocking under the tree, I am always taken back when I remember there are two. To my annual surprise my grandmother’s stocking is found lying underneath my own. These two stockings were tucked in a box of decorations given to me by Mom some years past. Another moment to stop – my grandmother, Grandmarney, as she was named – seeing her stocking always brings sweet memories. She was my ‘lap’ grandmother. Held close in her arms I can remember rocking and feeling happy. I always looked forward to getting out of my wheelchair and into her lap. Her home always smelled of apple fritters and fried chicken. These days there are not many houses that surround me with that smell. I am very grateful for that memory.
Hand made and filled with memories I placed both those stockings under my tree in my home. When the tree is lit and holding ornaments from then and now, I am once again that child. I am happy to taste the painted cookies, held close by my grandmother and bundle to go out in the cold air of Christmas Eve. Standing on the edge of a new year, these memories nudge me on, with gratitude for my past and curiosity for what lies ahead.
In the darkest hour the soul is replenished and given strength to continue and endure.
December 14 arrived on a Sunday this year. I woke up and prepared for a ‘normal’ Sunday morning – teaching the Advent series at St. John’s and attending the following service. While packing my things after the class I received an email from a friend wanting to talk. On this day two years ago, the town of Sandyhook CT was shaken to its core. My friend had been there on that tragic day and with the anxiety that only post-traumatic stress can bring, she sought out comfort and support. My morning plans changed. Sharing that time with her was my act of worship on this Sabbath.
There are never enough words to fill the void of such tragedy or settle the anxious heart. She needed to talk and I needed to listen. As we ended our conversation with a prayerful goodbye, I was taken back by the thought of the families by her side today, all remembering where they stood when they heard the news – gun shots had been fired and lives changed forever. No amount of imagination can place me in the middle of that confusion and pain. I can only try to be present in prayer and compassion.
Today – two years later I hear the resolve shared in Sandy Hook – a town filled with people touched by the unspeakable and committed to work for change in this country. A country over-run with guns and anger. We hear more stories each week of tragic situations. We shop for our Christmas celebration and find decorations strange and somewhat scary. I left a store today after having seen strands of lights for Christmas tree’s and other decorations made in the shape of bullet shells. The more we hear of these tragic stories and the more we see objects of violence woven into decorations, we become more desensitized and conditioned. We risk these objects and stories becoming more of the norm. Our children become more comfortable as they re-enact stories through the games they play and the items they see in their normal walk through the mall. This will not do. Love must win.
The people of Sandyhook have chosen to move outside of their darkness and into a place of strength and endurance. They believe in the power of love and the possibility of change. After two years their commitment to work for changes in our nation’s gun laws is inspiration. It is a commitment that would serve us well to consider. May we live our lives with the phrase “love wins” etched in every breath.
(a ‘thank you’ to Roger Hutchinson for sharing the above image)
(Blue Heron by Isaac Bignell, 1959-1995, Canadian Cree artist)
THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS
“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.” Wendell Berry
we live in a time with the sound of the slightest night noise can awaken our hearts with worry. No one knows what to expect – bombarded with news, repetitive and fantastical, our minds are filled with words of warning and images of horror. We all need a guide to a place that settles our anxious hearts and reminds us of something greater – may Wendell Berry be that guide for you today.