the end

ah, the last day of the year.

this is a bittersweet day to me, this turning of the final page on one calendar year while simultaneously cracking open a new one. saying goodbye to a year that went by so incredibly fast, while looking forward in anticipation of what the new one will bring.

and tonight, i get to spend the last night of the decade with my whole family. there will be much food, laughter, game playing and good times.

i know i haven't written much in this last week of the new year. my writing schedule has been blown to oblivion with this vacation. when i get home, i promise things will be back to normal.

instead of wishing you a happy new year tonight, i am going to wish you a joy-filled one. happiness is fleeting, but joy reaches down and transforms the soul.

so whatever you are doing to ring in the new year, i wish you, and all you love, much joy.

see you next year.

recommended reading

i love recommended reading lists. so how could i not do one of my own?! check back often, as i'm just beginning this list.

the book thief | markus zuzak
if you could see me now | cecelia ahern
winter solstice | rosamunde pilcher

the divine commodity | skye jethani


my life in france
| by julia child
take this bread | by sara miles



today, at 5:55 pm i am flying to calgary, alberta.

i have never lived in calgary, nor anywhere west of windsor, ontario actually. but since the parents, the three brothers, and their families have migrated their lives distinctly westward, this place where i have never lived is the home in 'i'll be home for christmas'.

there is a slight weirdness whenever i am asked when i am going home, since for the last eleven years, i have lived in mississauga, effectually making here home as well. when i am tired at the end of the day, this address in streetsville is my last stop at night.

and yet, tomorrow, westjet airlines gets to take me home. to see mom and dad. the siblings. the niece and all the nephews. to laughter. to friends.


wherever you find yourself over the next few days, i wish you much peace, joy, laughter and love as we celebrate the arrival of a tiny baby who left his home, so we could ultimately be at home with our Father.

i found this beauty of a poem by g. k. chesterton that i didn't even know existed. enjoy!

the house of christmas
by g. k. chesterton

there fared a mother driven forth
out of an inn to roam;
in the place where she was homeless
all men are at home.
the crazy stable close at hand,
with shaking timber and shifting sand,
grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
than the square stones of rome.

for men are homesick in their homes,
and strangers under the sun,
and they lay on their heads in a foreign land
whenever the day is done.
here we have battle and blazing eyes,
and chance and honour and high surprise,
but our homes are under miraculous skies
where the yule tale was begun.

a child in a foul stable,
where the beasts feed and foam;
only where he was homeless
are you and i at home;
we have hands that fashion and heads that know,
but our hearts we lost - how long ago!
in a place no chart nor ship can show
under the sky's dome.

this world is wild as an old wives' tale,
and strange the plain things are,
the earth is enough and the air is enough
for our wonder and our war;
but our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
and our peace is put in impossible things
where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings
round an incredible star.

to an open house in the evening
home shall men come,
to an older place than eden
and a taller town than rome.
to the end of the way of the wandering star,
to the things that cannot be and that are,
to the place where God was homeless
and all men are at home.

merry christmas eve!



tomorrow is get on a plane day.

i'd like to be able to say that i am packed and ready to go. it would be super to tell you that there are not still two empty suitcases sitting on my bedroom floor, or that i've already gotten out my passport and everything else that will be necessary for the journey.

but that would be a lie.

so, after work tonight, i have got some things to do.

but while i have ignored the practical side of my life, my advent reading journey has continued. this gem from WinterSong: Christmas Readings made my heart smile, and i hope it does the same for you...
the first-born light
by madeleine l'engle

the Maker's hand flung stars across the night
with angels bursting forth from galaxies
new music singing from the spheres in harmonies
that blessed the dancing of the first-born light.

and then the light was darkened by an earth
dimmed by torn dreams, saddened by shrill pride.
stars faded, lost their story, and died.
the dance distorted in strange lies and anger.
love's hand again was lifted. in a manger
again the Maker of the stars gave birth.

merry christmas eve's eve



for the most part, i think i am a fairly reasonable person. or at the very least, i fancy myself so.

but after reading this poem from WinterSong: Christmas Readings i have to wonder if my reasonability leaves room for the miraculous and the wonder-filled.
after annunciation
by madeleine l'engle

this is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
had mary been filled with reason
there'd have been no room for the child.

merry christmas eve's eve's eve


still waiting...

the beginning of the week of christmas always seems like the longest of the year for me, this year especially so.

here we are on monday, still three days, ten hours and 42 minutes until i get on a plane and head towards the family, still four days until christmas itself, and i get to see the whole family, and these few days feel like an eternity.

it's not like i don't have anything to do over these next few days... there are some rather demanding projects at work that will clamor for my attention. some unwrapped presents for little ones are still waiting to be wrapped. friends i want to celebrate the season with over a caramel brulee americano. one present that i am still waiting for {gulp!} not to mention the two very empty suitcases sitting in my bedroom.

as i said, so much to do, and yet all i can think of is finally being with all my family on christmas day.

and so, i wait.

this advent season, i have had the great joy of being accompanied by the words of two women that i have admired for years. madeliene l'engle and luci shaw's WinterSong: Christmas Readings has been a gift, and, truth be told, is helping me wait in beauty.

this poem, by madeleine l'engle, i read last night, and is perfect for both the season, as well as this winter solstice day...

Into the darkest hour
by madeleine l'engle

It was a time like this,
war & tumult of war,
a horror in the air.
Hungry yawned the abyss—
and yet there came the star
and the child most wonderfully there.

It was a time like this
of fear & lust for power,
license & greed and blight—
and yet the Prince of bliss
came into the darkest hour
in quiet & silent light.

And in a time like this
how celebrate is birth
when all things fall apart?
Ah! wonderful it is
with no room on the earth
the stable is our heart.
merry christmas eve's eve's eve's eve


christmas miracle!

i, and my friend barb have been looking for black christmas decorations since i put my tree up on october 31. it has been a fruitless search, and i had made peace with the navy blue bulbs that had been my second choice.

but yesterday, my friend lyndsay made my christmas miracle happen! black, shiny, perfect christmas decorations!

thank you, thank you, my friend!


a few weeks ago, when i booked today off as a vacation day, never did i suspect that i would end up spending it as i did.

after staying up until after midnight baking pumpkin pies & tarts, i got a slower start to my day that i had planned. but the purpose of taking the day off was so that i could leisurely get ready for my annual chicks only christmas party. that was the plan until...

as i began vacuuming this morning, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye, and to make an ugly story short, it was a mouse. not Mickey, whom i would have welcomed, but one of his way too rodent-like relatives that would never have been invited, had i had a say in the matter.

so, the next seven hours were spent going through my home in an effort to find all my unwelcomed intruder's 'nests'. and he had a couple doozies. so i spent the majority of my day cleaning up mouse poo and throwing away things that the mouse pooed on.

today has been a sucky ending to an hard week. and somewhere in the midst of cleaning up after my messy houseguest, i was reminded that on monday of this week, based on my devotions, i prayed for humility. and did God ever answer my prayer. i have been humbled emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and now environmentally this week.

as much as until the critter is caught and out of my home, i refuse to laugh about it {and there is a part of me that questions whether it is possible even when it is over}, this reminder that my home and possessions are really not mine, but under God's ownership is something that i need to keep first and foremost in my mind. i am not the owner of the things in my possession. i am merely the steward. so, until i can laugh about it, as friends say i will, this realization will have to suffice.

there's just one more thing, though... how does one actually fall asleep with a mouse in their home?



i don't believe i have ever ridden a city's metro system and not heard strains of music from a musician playing within the subway system. paris. kiev. london. toronto. it doesn't matter where you are, the underground seems to call musicians to be the soundtrack for commuters.

in my travels, however, i don't seem to recall ever not quickly walking past these rush hour artists in an effort to get where i was going, even when i was on vacation. perhaps it is the nature of a metro station that makes loitering for any reason seem vaguely wrong.

much like the 'tree falling in the woods and no one hearing it' question, i ran across this article in the washington post online about whether or not commuters would stop and listen if a world-renowned violinist was the one providing their transit melodies.

violinist joshua bell, who shortly before this experiment, played at symphony hall in boston for no less than $100 a seat. but on a friday morning last january, donned in some rather banal attire and accompanied by his stradivarius, he set himself up in washington's l'enfant plaza station beside a trash basket, and gave what should have been an amazing gift to all who passed by.

the article goes on to say that very few of that morning's commuters had any clue that the music that they could not help but hear was played by a master. most rushed past in an effort to get on with their day.
earth's crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God;
but only he who sees,
takes off his shoes—
the rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

elizabeth barrett browning
it makes me wonder how many amazing moments i rush past in my efforts to live life. would i, on that cold friday morning, have been one of the few who recognized the strains of genius, and in essence, taken off my shoes, or would i have been one of the many unseeing crowd, rushing off to whatever else? i fear that the answer is not the one i would want it to be.

* * * * *

God, open my eyes and ears to the extraordinary moments of life, however small they are. let me not be in such a rush to live my life that i forget that, as frederick buechner said, "all moments are key moments and life itself is grace."


o come

for years, my favorite christmas song has been steven curtis chapman's o come, o come emmanuel. even when the calendar wasn't turned to december, there is something about the opening piano strains that calm my heart even in the most frustrating of times.

then last year, rosie thomas came out with a very rosie christmas, and this holiday season, as i have listened to this gem more and more, the SCC version of o come has been dethroned by dear rosie's.

i am not even sure if i can adequately explain why. there is something entirely magical about the song. from the first moment, when rosie begins singing in her perfect, perfect voice, i close my eyes, and for a few moments, regardless of what else is happening around me, i let my heart believe that anything can happen.

the frustrations can fade.

the miracle can happen.

the loneliness becomes solitude.

the impossible seems less so.

i don't know where you find yourself in this christmas season, but regardless of individual situations, i think we could all use a little more belief in the miraculous.

and if we cannot find it in the celebration of a baby come to save the world, can it be found anywhere?


a single thing

it's not a surprise that in my love of books, i also love to introduce others to those books that i have loved and want to share. but sometimes, in my exuberance, i will lend one out that i haven't even yet finished, in an attempt to prolong the enjoyment of the book. unfortunately, every once in a while, it does bite me in the butt, and i don't get that book back.

one book that is living this sad tale is rilke's book of hours. it is a book of love poems/prayers to God, and i have quoted it many times before here, and i am sure to quote it again and again, even if i don't currently have a copy right now.

this morning in my devotions, i was writing about the dichotomy i too often have between those things that i proclaim to believe, and how my actions tell a different story as to what i REALLY believe. when the time came to pray, i was reminded by this line from one of rilke's poems in the book of hours,
i yearn... to be contained in an all-embracing mind that sees me as a single thing...
this is my prayer today. i want to be seen from God's view as a single thing.

and for your own enjoyment, i will share with you the rest of ranier maria rilke's brillian poem, which i had written out in my journal. enjoy!

i am praying again, awesome one.

you hear me again, as words
from the depths of me
rush toward you in the wind.

i've been scattered in pieces
torn by conflict,
mocked by laughter,
washed down in drink.

in alleyways i sweep myself up
out of garbage and broken glass.
with my half-mouth i stammer you,
who are eternal in your symmetry.
i lift to you my half-hands
in wordless beseeching, that i may find again
the eyes with which i once beheld you.

i am a house gutted by fire
where only the guilty sometimes sleep
before the punishment that devours them
hounds them out into the open.

i am a city by the sea
sinking into a toxic tide.
i am strange to myself as though some unknown
had poisoned my mother as she carried me.

it is here in all the pieces of my shame
that i now find myself again.
i yearn to belong to something, to be contained
in an all-embracing mind that sees me
as a single thing.
i yearn to be held
in the great hands of your heart—
oh let them take me now.

into them i place these fragments, my life,
and you, God— spend them however you want.


to hope...

to hope means to be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born, and yet not become desperate if there is no birth in our lifetime. | emily dickinson



it is advent again. the season of waiting. this year it seems as though i am feeling the things i am waiting for much more acutely than others.

waiting for a friend to heal and finally be able to leave the hospital after over two months. waiting for promises that somehow seem to never be fulfilled. waiting...

but what i am most waiting for is for 5:55 pm on thursday, dec 24, when i will get on a plane and finally be on the way to see my family, most of whom i have not seen since i got on a plane in calgary 340 days ago. it has been a very long year, and i am waiting.

less than patiently, to be honest.

why it is waiting seems easier when we realize we are not alone in it?

* * * * *

we wait for you to ache

with the energy we have,
we begin the day,
waiting and watching and hoping.

we wait,
not clear about our waiting.
but filled with a restlessness,
daring to imagine
that you are not finished yet —
so we wait,
patiently, impatiently,
restlessly, confidently,
quaking and fearful,
boldly and daring.

your sovereign decree stands clear
and we do not doubt.
we wait for you to dissolve in tender tears.
your impervious rule takes not prisoners,
we wait for you to ache and hurt and care over us
and with us
and beyond us.
cry with us the brutality
grieve with us the misery
tremble with us the poverty and hurt.
attend to us — by attending in power and in mercy.
remake this alien world into our proper home.

we pray in the name of the utterly homeless one,
even Jesus.




righteousness is given
through faith in Jesus Christ
to all who believe. |
romans 3:22

this past sunday we had our children's musical at PORTICO, and while kid's events are not where i generally get my entertainment, i have to say it was an enjoyable experience. everyone involved did a fantastic job.

my favorite part of the presentation, however, was one that no one actually planned for. at the beginning, after everyone had been welcomed and introductions had been done, just as the lights went down for the presentation to begin, something strange happened.

as the side stage door opened, and children started walking through the semi-darkness to their places, parents started applauding. then more parents, and pretty soon, everyone was applauding. these kids hadn't done a thing but show up and walk through a door. yet here they were, already being celebrated.

my naturally cynical bent initially chuckled at the craziness of it... applause simply for being there? but just as fast as my chuckle bubbled up, the words i had read from romans that morning exploded in my head. "righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe..."

all we have to do is believe.

we are not made right with God through our actions. through keeping a set of rules. by behaving in an acceptable manner. not even by going to church and reading the bible. all we have to do is believe.

all we have to do is show up.

and God applauds our showing up by making us righteous and whole and his.

how crazy and perfect is that?


Christmas 2009 Blog Tour

The Christmas Dog
i will admit, i am a sucker for a good Christmas story, and during this season when there is so much demanding time, energy and focus, who couldn't use a good, holiday spirit invoking story to help relax?

betty kowalski's life has turned into a boring, predictable routine. the only 'excitement' she has are the frustratingly unpleasant run-ins with her equally unpleasant neighbor, with whom she fears the worst. with a goal to survive the holidays alone, then decide what to do afterward, she is a woman without a lot of hope.

but for a woman who isn't expecting much, there seems to always be someone at her door. first a dog, then others, each lost and alone in their own way, and all looking for something that eludes them.

The Christmas Dog is a charming Christmas story that i read in an afternoon. and at the risk of sounding sappy, i will say that it is a story that reminds us that when we open our hearts to love, even if it is just a dog, you never know what will happen.

read an excerpt of The Christmas Dog here or by clicking on the book cover.

The Unfinished Gift
not being one for historical fiction, when i opened this book i was hoping that the 1943 setting was a prologue. but any misgivings i may have had quickly faded away as i was carried into this beautifully told story about three generations of men in the collins family.

the story opens with young patrick collins on his way to his grandfather's house. his father, a pilot, is on the other side of the world fighting in world war II, and his mother, having just died in a car crash, have left young patrick on his own. his only living relative is ian collins, a grandfather he doesn't know, who alienated himself from his son's family years ago, after his own wife's death. a grandfather who has more anger and bitterness than young patrick can hope to understand.

through a series of bad-to-worse events, patrick's grandfather discovers some letters never meant for his eyes that open his heart and help him see where he's been wrong for years. but is it too little too late, when it looks like he's driven off everyone who has ever loved him?

The Unfinished Gift was a perfect Christmas read. it was one of the few historical fiction pieces that i truly didn't want to end... except of course for a happy ending!

read an excerpt of The Unfinished Gift here or click on the book cover.

Finding Christmas
and finally, i haven't had the pleasure of reading Finding Christmas yet, but thought i would share an excerpt from this book as well. enjoy.

All three books are available at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

happy december

from december to march,
there are for many of us three gardens— the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls
in the house, and the garden of
the mind's eye. |
katherine s. white

...and for many {myself included} there is the garden of the unreal, which, blissfully, we cannot kill.

happy december!

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