Christmas is for the broken

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ChristmasForTheWounded

Every year I need to remind myself in the season of waiting that Advent is not truly the forced-happy and frantic countdown to Christmas that I can sometimes make it.

Advent is anticipation and longing, the days of earth’s groaning and our own unmet yearnings. It is run-down, weary and hope-starved bodies taking the journey to the manger like heavily pregnant women, dirt-caked shepherds, step by step.

Christmastime is for those able to walk in the joys of the season, recounting memories of blissful days and stringing sugarplum visions on twinkly lights, but it might be more for those who cannot. For without unveiled eyes to see how a broken world is met in love come down, any yuletide beauty is transitory and ultimately pointless.

If Christmas is not for the jacked-up and worn down desperate, it lacks true power to change this world. How would it change me if I believed Christmas was not the perfect end to every longing, so much as a holy response to the continual ache?

To be heart, flesh and bone, yet not alone.

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Missing the Flowers for the Sea (A Guest Post at Kari Patterson’s blog, The Sacred Mundane)

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BeachFlower

I remember the evening I finally met Kari Patterson, and we hugged like we’d known each other for years. We’d heard about one another from our common friend, Cornelia Seigneur, founder of the Faith & Culture Writers Conference. Cornelia knew Kari and I would hit it off, and she couldn’t have been more right.

Kari speaks life, love and truth as she so freely celebrates others. She walks with faithfulness to God while serving with unmistakable joy. I am grateful for the ways my dear friend, Kari, spoke to the little (speaker) seed that God placed in me and said, “Grow, grow.”

This morning I am sharing at Kari’s blog, The Sacred Mundane, about recognizing gifts in the chaos of our days, giving thanks for the everyday small, seeing the beauty of flowers in the face of the mighty sea. I hope this message of Thanks-living encourages you today that the small matters, and your small matters. Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends!

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I look out a large window upon the vast and mighty Pacific Ocean. The weather is stormy, the waves churning. I am captivated by this power because it causes me to consider afresh the One who set all of creation into motion and continues to be Lord of the wind and waves.

This morning, I am captivated by something else, as well. Framing the view of the sea is a fringe of commonplace beach plants – grasses and bushes whipped by wind and salt air. The vegetation is easy enough to look past in search of the Pacific, but when I slow to see, I recognize the beauty inherent in each detail. For these plants also speak to the Creator, the one who harnessed the full measure of his power and chose to paint the leaves glossy green, the small flowers lipstick pink, the grasses autumn gold.

While the mountains, skies and canyons are fully worthy of our attention and wonder because they point to an almighty God, so, too, do tender shoots, blinking eyes and the shocking coral leaves of fall.

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Five Minute Friday: Notice

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ThroughTheBranches

November 20, 2014.

I am marking last night as one of the times in my life when I felt the earth shift, the internal structures of my heart made utterly NEW.

This is years of process — this rejecting of lies, this saying yes to God’s ways for me — but I’m saying yes really big this time. Not only for the next step the way I usually try to do with fear and trembling, but to all of it — regardless of outcomes, my picture of success or the risk required. I’m willing to look a fool.

When Christal Jenkins spoke right to my core last night: “Your idea coming out is connected to someone else’s purpose,” I saw for the first time my denial of the seemingly crazy God ideas in me as an outright rejection of someone else in need.

Because who am I to say my bread is not good enough for her table when she’s hungry? Who am I to say my words or thoughts are not complete enough when you’re right starving for hope? Who are any of us, drawn up in love and imbued with holy gifts, to deny another what and Whom we have to share?

I’ve been terrified of failing in the spoken and written word, but last night I knew it. I’m done placing my performance on the throne. I surrender.

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Five Minute Friday: Still

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BeStill

For days frigid winds whip through trees, blowing leaves into whirling cyclones, and we head for cover, blankets, hot cider, snuggles. This morning, a hush covers our neighborhood. All is calm.

I long for this calm, miss it like a faraway friend, because inside these walls I am a spinning circle of fallen things myself. I try to order crunchy leaves in pleasing rows, but the wind churns again, kicks my accomplishments sideways. They’re not really what I want, I suppose.

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Lessons on courage from a kindergarten writer

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Speed20

It’s September, and I am weaving through the classroom, sidling up beside kids one at a time.

Lala is my third child enjoying kindergarten with Ms. Foster, and so for the third school year, I have the privilege of assisting this wondrously talented veteran teacher during Writing Workshop. When I first helped with writing eight years ago, I wondered if it was even “right” to make such small people write in lined journals. But I’ve watched little round faces and still dimpled hands dance with letters forming words, shaping sentences, sharing story. This is not drudgery, but joy.

Each time, I approach children, I ask them to tell me what they’re writing, to count out the words in their sentence.

“I am going to the pa-ark,” one boy counts on his fingers, arriving at seven. Because, he seems to figure, park is an important word, a big one — at least worth two slots.

“Close. That’s actually six,” I count out for him, drawing lines with an orange marker for each word he’ll write with the big blue pencil in his journal.

I smile, and he nods in somewhat confused agreement.

Most of the kindergarteners are only beginning to form letters, many using squiggles in place of letters they don’t know or can’t yet stretch out. It is completely encouraged as part of the progress. Not surprisingly, this early in the year few kids write anything that resembles what we’d call sentences.

Suddenly, a little blonde-haired girl stands next to me, tears falling from saucer eyes.

“I can’t write anything,” she says. “I don’t know how to do it.”

I pull her aside and get low. “Honey, you are doing it,” I say. “You’re learning. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.”

Her mouth draws further down at the corners, and I continue.

“You are becoming a writer, and that takes time, but you’ll be amazed, bit by bit, you’ll learn more,” I say. “I can’t wait to see how your writing grows this year.”

She heads back to her desk, looks up at the ceiling.

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My first ever guest post on the blog (by my 12-year-old daughter) and the winner of “Playdates with God”

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WinnerAnnouncement

{And the winner of “Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-Up World” is…LORI HARRIS!}

Today my daughter, “Sici” (nickname pronounced “See-See”) writes about what it means for her to preserve her childlike faith as she grows up. It started with me asking if she could draw a winner for the giveaway, which led to her asking if she could guest post for me! Such a perfect example of this girl’s spunk, focus and courage.

I couldn’t be a prouder mama to welcome my oldest girl’s words into this space. I learn so much from her each day about walking in confidence and the assuredness of who God’s made us. 

Here’s Sici…

When you talk to someone that is relaxed, calm, comfortable, and realistic with how they present themselves, you get a feeling that what is coming from them is genuine. The same is true when you are talking with God. He wants you to be real with him and be where you are.

Kids in particular are very good at this, being authentic in the presence of God. They don’t speak in fancy or intelligent ways. They are just there with Him.

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To Live Like A Child Plus A Giveaway of “Playdates with God” by Laura Boggess

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QuoteFromPlaydatesWithGod

If you’d like a gentle hello each time I post new, please subscribe at the sidebar or tab along the top, or Like Draw Near Blog on Facebook. I’m always so thankful that you choose to join me here.

Dirty napkins, homework packets, sticky jam spots,
markers, crumbs around my reading pile,
I try to focus on pages, but eyes
keep finding mess in the periphery.

No time to clean, only a few minutes to do this reading,
but little girl me keeps tugging at my sleeve,
no real care to order, the checklist,
she wants to play,
and grownup me senses the nudge of the mysterious yes.

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Five Minute Friday: Care

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CareOnPaint

It happens so often. I feel excited and all revved up to write on Friday. The word is released in Thursday’s late hours, and I see it.

Nothing.

I trace back over my week, all the memories of faces and moments, all the moments I thought I could write, and they meld from sparkling chartreuse, suede gray, scarlet and ebony into murky mud.

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