📝 Mid-winter Musings

And the final issue of Jots & Doodles for the year!

December has been exhausting. The reasons why are varied and don’t need to be itemized here. But now it is Christmas Eve and I’m thinking of how exhausted Mary must have been — young, very pregnant, travel-weary, away from family and the familiarity of home. Sometimes I forget the reality of her situation when I read the too-familiar Christmas story and look at pristine nativity scenes. But really — could God have chosen a less glamorous, less noble, less god-like way to enter into the human story? What divine thinking process ended with this particular girl, in this particular town, in this particular stable, on this particular night?

I’ve been pondering the idea that God has ideas. He is a thinker. The psalmist speaks of God’s thoughts as being vast and profound (Ps. 139:17; 92:5). Sometimes I forget this aspect of God when I’m asking him to “do things,” but his do-ing is never separate from his thinking. I explore these ideas a bit in the poem, “Divine Ideas,” found in the center of this month’s Jots & Doodles. I’m still exploring the profound implications of a God who is full of ideas…

The first piece in Jots & Doodles is a list rather than a poem. Over the past few months I’m been trying to notice and name goodness, and this piece gleans from a daily practice of paying attention. It is an incomplete list and always will be, but I won’t stop adding to it.

One of my favourite Christmas carols is “O Come, O Come Immanuel,” in part because of its haunting melody. The plea that resonates throughout the lyrics is one of Israel longing for the Messiah, but the call for us to rejoice because Immanuel will yet come seems to miss the point of calling him Immanuel. I find it interesting that a song we typically sing at Christmas doesn’t actually mention the significant moment where Immanuel did in fact come. So of course, I pondered this for a while…and wrote a poem about it.

Even though the month has left me weary, I am also filled with gratitude for God’s presence with us, for his thoughts beyond my understanding, and for his goodness so evident in every day. Grace upon grace.

You can find Jots & Doodles Volume 1 Issue 12 here, or by clicking on the Jots & Doodles page in the main menu.

Christmas 2020: Tiles, Toilet & Turkey

A Saturday Caesura, Christmas Edition

Christmas morning begins in the semi-dark living room, the glow of coloured Christmas lights and candles accompanied by hot coffee (him) and tea (me) with a chaser-splurge of hot chocolate (also me) and a deep dive into words of Christ found in Matthew that speak truths both knowable and beyond understanding. No exchange or opening of presents, just this gift of God’s presence.

I listen to “Bethlehem, Year Zero,” a poem penned and read by Irish poet, Andrew Roycroft, the lilt of his brogue adding to the resonance of his words for this day, this year. It nourishes my spirit like the breakfast bowl of warmed-over Irish oats nourishes my body.

The dark sky gives way to ordinary grey. It starts snowing, lightly.

I fill the bird feeder and the wood box, stoke the fire, don my painting clothes and put a final coat on the window trim in the bathroom we’ve been renovating. We work together to adjust the new shower drain, brainstorm solutions for tiling uneven, unsquare walls (old farmhouse syndrome), abandon the tile idea, reinstall the vanity, re-plumb the sink, reinstall & re-plumb the toilet. It needs a new seat, we agree.

I change clothes, wash renovation residue off my hands and prep the turkey, saute onions and celery and garlic for the stuffing, peel and chop two small turnips, put them on the wood stove to cook. While the turkey roasts, I lend a hand here and there to ongoing endeavours in the bathroom, tidy up tools and rags, vacuum dust ‘n bits.

We are only two here, but texts, emails, phone calls connect us to family and friends throughout the day – a glittering of grace and joy and love that sparkles like hoar frost in the sun of a winter day, like tinsel in the lights of a Christmas tree.

I exchange the everyday ivory tablecloth for something festive red and green, set out stemware, silverware, white cloth napkins. He exchanges overalls for an apron and carves the turkey while I make gravy, dress the roasted carrots and brussel sprouts with balsamic glaze, whip the turnips with a touch of cream and dollop of butter. We keep the food hot on the wood stove, serve ourselves there on pre-warmed china plates. We light candles, (an everyday supper routine), hit play on Kenny G’s Christmas album (still in the CD player from last year), give thanks to God for the gifts of this day, this year, and savour the meal, the work of our hands, the blessings of life and marriage and home.

It is not a “magical” Christmas Day, but it is one rich in meaning that extends beyond the hours that define it as a day, just as the birth of the God-Man, the Servant-King, carries its deepest meaning far beyond the hours that defined that night in a stable in Bethlehem, year zero.