Advent 24

Happy Christmas one and all! Today the wonder was fairly easy to find, a sun filled freezing walk at Cuckmere Haven, a browse in a book shop, a snooze after lunch, a walk with an excellent friend around the block, the boys figuring out it’s Christmas and going crazy and the brilliance of Emmanuel. God in flesh. Come down to earth from heaven. Residing with us. Meeting us in our hopes and fears. Being born in us today. Abiding with us. Whatever the strangeness of this year holds for us there is hope and reality, and this beautiful blessing by Jan Richardson…

How the Light Comes

I cannot tell you
how the light comes.

What I know
is that it is more ancient
than imagining.

That it travels
across an astounding expanse
to reach us.

That it loves
searching out
what is hidden,
what is lost,
what is forgotten
or in peril
or in pain.

That it has a fondness
for the body,
for finding its way
toward flesh,
for tracing the edges
of form,
for shining forth
through the eye,
the hand,
the heart.

I cannot tell you
how the light comes,
but that it does.
That it will.
That it works its way
into the deepest dark
that enfolds you,
though it may seem
long ages in coming
or arrive in a shape
you did not foresee.

And so
may we this day
turn ourselves toward it.
May we lift our faces
to let it find us.
May we bend our bodies
to follow the arc it makes.
May we open
and open more
and open still

to the blessed light
that comes.

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Advent 23

I trace the wonder through the day: it was found in finding myself awake for a planning chat with my excellent colleagues, in getting out to some very quiet National Trust joy, in the blue sky and big clouds, in the joy of being out of the house again. The wonder came in singing loudly to the Come From Away soundtrack and crying along to the invitation, ‘To the ones who’ve left, you’ve never truly gone, the candle’s in the window and the kettle’s always on…to the ones who’ve come from away, we say ‘welcome to the rock’. For me that’s a wonderful picture of God’s welcome to us and I end up in tears every time I listen as I hear in it the voice of our Maker calling us in from the wind and rain to a cup of tea by an open fire.

Wonder was also found in the green shoots coming up from an expanse of mulch, which reminded me of the third verse of Joy to the World:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground.
He comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.

The blessings of those green shoots reminded me that Spring will come, and our Eternal Spring will also come, that these weary days will end and the things we see and know in part we will fully know in all wonder. Phew.

I’m sitting in our spare room waiting for son2 to fall asleep whilst son1 marvels at his new microscope/telescope pen he bought in the gift shop today. He is full of wonder at the detail to be found in looking through the microscope at lots of different book covers and discovering what looks like full colour is actually made up of a whole load of dots. I’m pretty much in awe of that too…

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Advent 22

As we approach the strange wonder of Christmas Day I am reminded again and again that the wonder is always found in the deeper magic, the story that goes back to the dawn which tells of the dawn to come. I am reminded that whatever our world looks like we have light that shines on, we have hope and hope of better to come. This is no vain hope but a real lasting one. Jesus has come into the world, Jesus will come again, we live now in the in-between wonder of Jesus walking with us in this troubled beautiful world. And so I hold onto hope.

There was also much wonder today in being let out of isolation, we went up to the woods at the top of our road and pottered about in the fresh air. I took son2 to the park this afternoon and delighted in seeing him happy running around. Lovely to see that December misty gloom, damp green bark and empty trees against the grey sky. Something in me loves these short days as the year turns and we journey towards the dawn. Like Lucy yesterday I feel a bit better, the darkness hasn’t gone but I feel a little changed because of the One who also inhabits these days.

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Advent 21

And we’ve done it, 10 days in our house. Tomorrow we get to go somewhere. I’m not really sure I want to go anywhere, but the option is there at least. Today the wonder came in the gentle rhythm of survival, boardgames, reading books, a film that I could read my book in, food arriving in our online delivery, a chat with my Mum, Husbandface able to finish early for Christmas so these next few days aren’t just more of the same. It was the shortest day today, the day we turn our eyes up and look for the dawn. We are reading The Voyage of The Dawn Treader at the moment, I think it’s one of my favourites from the Narnia series. I love this prayer of Lucy’s from the dark when all looks lost.

“Lucy leant her head on the edge of the fighting-top and whispered, ‘Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.‘ The darkness did not grow any less, but she began to feel a little – a very, very little – better...There was a tiny speck of light ahead, and while they watched a broad beam of light fell from it upon the ship…It did not alter the surrounding darkness, but the whole ship was lit up as if by searchlight.
Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross…It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them…no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, ‘Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.” – C. S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I’m pretty sure we all need lion breath courage to face our worlds each day. I love that even though the darkness doesn’t grow any less it begins to feel a bit better as she cries out in desperation to Aslan. On this short day I too rest my head down and whisper, come Lord Jesus, come into our dark and help us navigate our way through it, give courage to our hearts, breathe on us and enable us to take the next step forward.

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Advent 20

Today the wonder came through our two Christmas services, despite the strangeness of not being physically present at either of them it was beautiful to have such a light relief joy fest in the morning. Tonight it was odd but wonder filled to sit in our candle lit living room and sing carols loudly and hear of the light that burns on in the darkness and will not be put out. I don’t know what Christmas ‘should’ feel like this year, it’s the weirdest one I’ve had in a long time, but I do know that these truths we remember at this point in the year are the stuff which will carry us through. The light is still shinning, we are loved, known and held by the God who stepped into the world to be with us. I do not understand how this God works most of the time but I think I possibly do understand that this God is showing up amongst us, helping us walk alongside each other, giving us a bigger picture and a bigger love, offering a deeper and better hope. Amidst the weirdness around us I want to swim in the wonder of that.

Also, we only have one more day to go until we can leave the house, I have taken to doing laps of our front and back garden like a caged lion, I’ll be grateful for that moment we can walk around our streets in the dark and see the lights burning hope into the bleak. I’ll be grateful to be able to pop to the shops, or meet up with a friend for a walk. The wonder is deep in the details this year eh.

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Advent 19, the one with the wedding anniversary…

It’s that time of year where I get to say that we used to look like this: 

And now we look like this: 

And somehow 11 years have gone by, over a decade of adventuring through the ups and downs life has thrown our way, over a decade of enjoying each other, learning about each other and weathering storms together. As years go this one has been particularly strange, getting through a global pandemic together has certainly added a new dimension to our world. I was wondering if I should just link to all the many other blog posts I’ve written over the years in praise of this wonderful man I’m married to but I reckon each year brings it’s own flavour of life together. 

This year I have loved seeing him flourish in his work, his many side hustles which I can’t comprehend most of the time. I love seeing his passions for teaching, doing and learning thrive and be put to good use. I’ve loved bumbling around with him during the strangeness of this year, co-parenting together as we’ve sought to help our small ones get their heads around being in a global pandemic. We’ve had to remember how to be more of a team as his health has got better over the last few months and it’s been brilliant to work those things out. I love his cheerleading of me, I love how he loves, I love doing life with this brilliant man and being team together. 

There’s a song by Christie Moore that we heard earlier in the year which sums up all I want to say about the wonderful husbandface. We now have a strange crew that make sailing this ship a whole lot harder, but, on the good days, a whole lot more fun too. 

Here’s some of the lyrics and below is the full thing. Life isn’t always easy, there are many times we get it wrong but we are still in this ship together, figuring it out, committed to each other and deeply, wonderfully for each other. 

With no maps to guide us we steered our own course
Rode out the storms when the winds were gale force
Sat out the doldrums in patience and hope
Working together we learned how to cope

Life is an ocean and love is a boat
In troubled waters that keeps us afloat
When we started the voyage, there was just me and you
Now gathered round us, we have our own crew

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Advent 18

It’s getting harder… I’m frustrated and fed up today. In the small pockets where I wasn’t frustrated and fractious I managed to give the talk for our Christmas Day service on our doorstep, a talk that reminded me that I have a Good Shepherd, who holds me in arms of love and leads me tenderly. Ah I need to remember that tonight as I wearily write at the end of another long day. I lay down my frustrations and clamber into arms that hold me and remind me that it is ok not to be in control.

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Advent 17

Tonight I write from a tired and slightly fed up with isolation space. It feels hard to dig for the wonder and yet as my mind floats over the day I know it was there. It was there in moments of joy at hanging out with my boys (easy to forget at this point in the day). In delight at realising how much easier this stay at home with them for 10 days is than if we had done it 2 or more years ago. They have grown and are more fun, we have laughed, huggled and played fun games today (again I must remember these good things because all I really have in my mind are the snappy annoying bits as I try and persuade them into bed). There was wonder in the cake delivered randomly and anonymously to our door (well the boys and husbandface will find wonder in that, fat free is a hugely annoying way to eat at the moment..).

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Advent 16

We made it over the hump day of our lockdown time (all being well…) 5 more days to go. The wonder came in swirls after a long crazy night with an unsettled youngest. But it was there. It came in being played Jamie Cullum’s Age of Anxiety in zoom staff team this morning, these lyrics getting to me every time I hear it… “‘Cause I hold onto you, And you hold onto me, A tiny victory in The Age of Anxiety”. Despite these odd times we hold onto each other and that feels very special indeed. I feel very held by friends who care, by our lovely neighbours on our road and the general sense that we aren’t alone despite not having left our house for 5 days.

The wonder also came in the laughter of the boys, the singing of various Hamilton songs, they do a pretty ropey Guns and Ships which is genius to listen to. It was found in kicking a ball around in the garden whilst the sun shone, in a cup of tea outside, in tie dying t-shirts and in playing games together. I finish today grateful for the details of this life, deeply enjoying the tiny victories.

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Advent 15

I think today I got some feels about Advent, about this Christmas time. The last few weeks have been full of illness and now lockdown and nothing has felt like ‘Christmas’ at all (to borrow a line). Today though I read a beautiful poem in my Waiting on the Word book – a collection of poems and reflections on them by Malcolm Guite. Today’s poem was Christmas and the Common Birth by Anne Ridler. I think it was the link between childbirth and this remembrance of the child birth that we do each year which got me. These lines especially made me stop and pay attention:

To bear new life or learn to live is an exacting joy:

The whole self must waken; you cannot predict the way

It will happen, or master the responses beforehand.

I love the truth spoken here, it is an exacting joy to bear new life and learn to live, it’s unpredictable, life emerges and takes shape and is beyond our control. Becoming and being a mother has felt entirely like that. I am strangely comforted by these words, it feels good to know that it is an exacting joy to learn to live, that it doesn’t come easy but there is something wonderful going on. You can make your own links to the coming of Jesus but I sense that in the birth of our Emmanuel something like this is happening, that our whole selves are being wakened again to new realities. I wonder if these are different each time we remember, each time we walk through this part of the year. I wonder if each year we need something different from this ancient story woven into our lives. I wonder what I need this year. I wonder what you might need.

In other news we survived another day of isolation. We made biscuits, played in the garden, did lots of hama beads, read more of The Voyage of the Dawntreader, watched Coco and played a new board game. All in all a pretty good day. Wonder is still lurking.

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