Solstice

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light…”

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…”

“In them there is no darkness at all, the night and the day are both alike…”

“…For those who lived in the land of the great shadow, on them, light has dawned.”

The solstice was this weekend. On Saturday, in the northern hemisphere, we had the shortest day of the year, where we currently live the day is nine hours and forty-four minutes long. I usually reflect during this time of year that one of the reasons I am glad that we use Christmas lights to celebrate the season is because we are fighting off the length of the darkness of the night. 

Our neighbors have multiple light displays and blowup decorations in their front yard, and I asked my husband when we were both awake in the middle of the night if it was close to dawn, or just the neighbors. It was just the neighbors. Just enough light to have me wonder if I should be waking up, not enough to keep me awake. 

I wonder if Christianity has become that for some people… just enough light to wonder if they could wake up, not enough to keep them awake. Are we all flash and no warmth? 

I was standing next to a woman at the grocery store who was complaining about Christmas, because it wasn’t any fun for her. She remembered it being fun when she was a kid, but now it was more a list of chores, a set of things added to what she had to get done, decorations to put up and immediately take down again. I wonder if she had budgets to check against wishlists, consumerism facing limited resources, trying to make it still “magical” for her kids, but really wishing she could have a day with less, not more. She was already ready for it to be over, for Christmas to be over and done with, something else she didn’t have to face anymore as she checked out at the grocery line on her way home from work with a kid in tow and dinner still to cook and get on the table. 

One of the families in our neighborhood lost their baby at 23 weeks gestation, the would-have-been grandfather told me last week. I wonder if they will have both a hard time with this Christmas, and the next, and easter, when the due date would have been, now both high holy christian calendar celebrations reminders of their loss. 

Loss seems harder this time of year. 

We remember who is missing at the table, we grieve the conversations we never got to have, we feel the loss of who we never got to see experience this thing we are doing together. 

And then, even if the grief isn’t weighing heavier, there is aggressively cheerful holiday music playing practically everywhere we go—the grocery store, the coffee shop, the clothing stores, the bank, the school, and (if we’re not careful) the church. Our culture doesn’t want to hold the space for anything but holiday cheer. 

I wonder if we become like my neighbor’s light display, just enough to fake the dawn but never enough to usher in the sun. I want to shine light towards hope, but I rarely know what tangible thing that hope would be. 

And Scripture promises that hope, the light shining in the darkness, a light dawning, a great light that illuminates the path on the way that leads to life. 

My daughter, on the ride to church today complained because it was cloudy. The sun was hiding behind the clouds. She’d rather have the sun. But even behind the clouds, we know the sun is still shining. And, now that we have passed through the longest night, the sun will be returning even through the cold of our winter. 

Come, Light. Come.

Leapt into New Life

The backyard is a riot of green this week. So much so, that the library is green because of the light scattered through the leaves into the windows. I forget how green it can get while the leaves are waiting to unfurl. I forget how verdant spring can be when we are still in the barren limb days of winter.

Finally the earth has leapt into the days of new life. Finally the daylight lasts until well after dinner so that we can venture out in the cool of the evening. Finally we can celebrate.

Finally we are on the celebration side of Easter. We journeyed through a long and dark Lent and the sadness of Holy Week; now finally we have fifty days of Easter celebration. But we don’t have the end of the story. There are yet more stories to tell of the birth of the church, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the expanse of the Gospel. It’s a story we tell with our lives.

We tell the story of the Easter season with our joys and with our hardships. I’ve got friends whose daughter had open heart surgery yesterday. Their story is part of the Easter story. Another friend has an infant son with a diagnosis that no child has yet survived. Their story is part of the Easter story as they walk in the presence of God through the valley. I’ve got other friends dealing with bad news and hard days. The promise of the power that God used in raising Jesus from the dead on Easter is where we find our promise, for our days.

Even if things don’t turn out the way we hope, we still trust in the promise; we still participate in a beautiful story, we still venture into a new life together.

The In Between

I’m having a hard time seeing the image of God in folks these days. Rather. I’m neglecting to look for it. I’m not really seeing many people, actually. I’m seeing tweets and Facebook updates and news headlines and an amalgamation of what serves as entertainment. These snippets of people, either the best of them or the absolute worst of them (and really, it depends who you talk to as to which is which), are not their full embodiment. There is more to the story. There is more to the narrative. There is more to us than our lies or our successes. There is everything in between.

I’m having a hard time finding the in between.

The in between isn’t very exciting. It’s the part that gets left out of the novel. The only time you see a bathroom in a movie is when the heroine is checking her pregnancy test result. There’s no suspense in vacuuming a house. Cleaning up after dinner is boring.

Even the fun stuff is mundane. I love my daughter’s giggles, but I don’t need to tell you each time she does it. I don’t want to tell you about every time my husband and I have a conversation after which one of us needs to apologize for a hasty word. (usually I need to apologize.)

But it is the in between parts that make us human. I’m not seeing many people in their humanity these days. I also do not feel seen in my own humanity. I don’t participate in a community in which I can be wholly myself, and so I feel pieced together. not whole. Scattered among my various support networks, are pieces of me, parts where I celebrate and exult. but not all of me. Not all at once.

And sure, some of this is because I am finding a new reality in staying at home and taking on the mantle of full-time motherhood. Some of it is because I have been working over the last eight years for the church and towards the church and now I’ve reached a place of not yet. Some of it is utter disgust at the current political climate and the ease at which I can say that those who support the candidate I don’t like are wrong on all points. More than a little bit of it is exactly that.

But I’m worried that I am not seeing the whole person behind someone’s statement. A person, with all their history and narrative and emotions and struggles and difficulties cannot be distilled down into a headline or a tweet.

I need reminders to look for the humanity of those around me. I need reminders to look for the image of God. I know it’s there. Sometimes I refuse to see it because it makes my life easier. But easy is not always holy.

SnowMelt

It was so good to have our first snow in our new home. We only lost power for an hour or so, we had everything we needed, and we didn’t have to make any hard decisions about leaving home in order to get to work or go out for an emergency. It was beautiful, the white blanket that covered what we are only now beginning to recognize as home.

It was nice while it lasted, but now it is time for it all to melt. Our back yard is still a bit dangerous with the sheet of ice covering the blanket of snow—my husband nearly got his car stuck on his way to work this morning. The ice is still hanging out in the shaded parts of our road, threatening to send us sliding out off the road… not something I want to try with my baby in tow. And I want to see if we have any volunteer flowers that are waiting for the first hints of Spring… I’m ready for it, even though Spring is still two months away.

It’s odd, the way that the snow melts and water runs off from the mountains that would be puddles in summer. Water keeps coming from places that we normally see as dry. Its like with snow, the water took a pause. With rain, the deluge is immediate. The ground is immediately sodden, and then can work it’s way to the roots and trees. With snow, the water is kept in holding. Until the sun or warmer weather melts it, the water stored in the white blankets is kept in a holding pattern, waiting to see if it will gently water the earth, or erode down to the bedrock.

We wait for the snow to melt. We wait to see if anything changed under the weight of the icy blanket. Did something get pushed aside when the snow plow careened through the neighborhood? Did anyone skid into a new place, creating a path out of a green space? Did the trees get damaged by the ice, or are they stoically waiting for the thaw with the rest of us?

What is coming next? How much will the melted snow reveal? And when will these new things take their place? 

 

Hope Lies in Wait

I have been watching this stand of daffodils for the past few weeks, watching them emerge from the ground, watching the yellow petals form underneath the protective membrane that keeps them from freezing. This stand blooms early every spring we have been here, but this time, they might just wait until spring actually gets here. Perhaps they are waiting for the bitter cold we have had to seep away so that they can take the March winds dancing.

The anniversary of my Grandmother’s death is coming up this Monday. Daffodils were her favorite flower, and when she died the ground around her home was covered in these gaily dancing yellow flowers who lie in wait in their bulbs over the winter, daring to emerge before other flowers are even dreaming about the sun. It is bittersweet to me that from now on, every early spring, when the daffodils come out to dance, I will be reminded of her, as well as of her death. But we need reminders of those we love, those who are alive and especially those who have gone on to join the church triumphant ahead of us.

These flowers display hope for me. They know full well that they are standing in the midst of snow. They know full well that the weather has been deeply below freezing for days on end. But they know full well that Spring is coming, that they will be the first to triumphantly declare the return of warmer days and shorter nights.

I envy them. They wear yellow much better than I do. God has dressed them in radiant silks and glorious shimmering greens. I envy them, but more, I consider them sisters. We are both pregnant with the promise of new life. Hope is seated deep inside of me, waiting for a new season to emerge, to enter the world, not at the violent riot of color that is Spring, but the full breadth of joy that ushers in the Summer months. This hope is taking longer to form, to develop, to be knit together; but as I wait, I am blessed in preparing for this hope that I have carried for seasons, and hope to watch grow and mature over the seasons and years to come.