To All A Good Night

It’s close to 3:00 AM Christmas Eve. It’s one of my favorite times of the entire year; the kids are asleep, and I’m up, watching over all that will be revealed in the morning. I always forget what I’ve wrapped and who’s getting what and in THIS family, all things must be equal, so it’s important that every kid has the same number of gifts to open. I double check.

We had a wonderful evening. Imagine Christmas was our service tonight, and it was stunning. Amazing. Incredible. I played in the band and got to watch most of the service. At times, I found myself thinking, “Who are these people? How did they think up all this stuff?” And then I realize that this is my team, these are the folks who are investing their lives in our community and in God’s work through our church. And I am privileged and honored to work alongside of them. It was a beautiful evening, all around.
We came home to hear The Boys (Travis and Elijah) share the song they wrote for The Girls (Shannon and Sarah) in some sort of song-writing challenging they’d thrown down. Apparently the rules were simple: write a song with the line, “I love you the most.” Well, they did, and it was awesome.
We honored our Christmas Eve traditions; the kids opened one gift, which is always pajamas, which they quickly don. I play the Charlie Brown theme song and they do the Charlie Brown dance through the house. Then we gather around to hear the Christmas story; Shannon read this year. We light our “Christmas candle”, which is a round blue candle that we have toted around for years, and we sing “Silent Night”. Tonight we shared what we believed – about God, about our family, about ourselves. It was special, and good to have Elijah here to share that as well.
They all sleep in the same room on Christmas Eve – another tradition – and they’ll awaken in a few hours to run down and see if Santa came.
(He did!)
It was a wonderful evening, and it’s a watershed for us. Our family dynamic is changing; “The Boys” have been around for some time, and more and more of our family events include them. And in less than 48 hours, our lives will change again, with a wedding and the addition of another adult in the family. We talked about it and processed it and made our time together tonight a commemoration of something very important.
I am so incredibly grateful for my children. Each Christmas reminds me of the gift I was given in 1990, when Sarah was born one week before Christmas. I became a mother and my life changed, for good, forever.
I love Christmas Eve; I am overwhelmed with gratitude.
Merry Christmas, all. May you find God’s greatest blessing and His deepest peace.

What I Did With My Sunday

I started the day with a cup of coffee, after a great, restful night of probably more sleep than I needed.

Or maybe not.
If you sleep until you wake up, do you end up with the right amount of sleep?
When left to my own devices, I almost always sleep 9 – 10 hours before awaking. I always feel guilty about this; something from my childhood and my mom, who is always up at the crack of dawn (hi, Mom!)
I digress; anyway, this morning, I slept until I had my fill, and when I awoke, I had a cup of coffee, eggs and bacon. I “went to church” with Newspring via their online service. I enjoyed the worship music – sang along, even, and felt engaged with God as I did so – and I enjoyed the message immensely.
But I sure didn’t feel like I went to church. Which is interesting to contemplate. I’ve only ever watched online church in addendum to my regular gathering time. I’ve never been in a situation where it was the only option, as it was today due to the weather-related cancellation of our services.
I missed community. I missed my friends. I missed the people, the connection, the overwhelming gulp I feel in my throat when I look out over the crowd and see my community.
I am also a bit disappointed in myself. I thought that the day would hold some different spiritual flavor. I expected that I’d take advantage of the time to embrace room to pray, to read, to be with God.
I did not. Although it seemed like a holy time, just having a good night’s sleep and feeling unencumbered by pressure and work, I’m not sure there was enough room for anything else. As the kids began to call and make their way home, the time slipped away. The openness of unplanned time ahead and behind me disappeared.
And then we went shopping.
I had hoped for more. Too many other things are crowding out those moments. I’m busy, preoccupied with Christmas Eve services and rehearsals that have to be made up this week; plans for the last week of 2009 and the first week of 2010 and a wedding, for goodness’ sake.
I’m cutting myself some slack, going to bed and looking forward to tomorrow. This post started out with intentions of writing about coffee cups. Look where we ended up.
Kind of like my life these days; I’m always ending up somewhere that’s not quite where I planned….

Uninterrupted Space

Over a foot of snow. The “Blizzard of 09”.

The rest of the world – away from the mid-Atlantic states – goes on as usual. Christmas shopping, concerts, shows, church services. But here in Virginia, DC and north and south of here, we are stuck. Time has slowed, stood still almost. Except for our connection to the world through the internet and television, we are still and isolated.
And it is a blessing beyond belief.
I cannot recall the last time I had this much uninterrupted space. From the kids, who had already intended to spend the weekend with their dad; from the phone. From work. From stress in general. No temptation to go out, because I cannot.
Focused time on that which has been begging for attention for weeks. Months, even. I folded six baskets of clothes that I am ashamed to admit had sat in my bedroom for longer than I can remember. We’d been rifling through the baskets for socks, jeans, shirts, underwear. Now the baskets are empty and the clothes are folded, put away in my room and waiting for the kids to do the same when they get home. The kitchen is clean. The pile of papers – excuse me, the three piles of papers and books – that had occupied my bedroom floor are now filed and put away. I vacuumed. I dusted.
I wrapped gifts, excited about some of the surprises under the tree.
My favorite elf showed up with some of Bob Pino’s chili, still warm. Delicious.
I invited the elf in, and we ate Raisinets and watched The Proposal. Sweet movie. We both cried at the end.
The gentle quiet of the day brought a peace that I’ve not experienced in a long time. Too long. I have been given a gift. The timing is impeccable.
Tomorrow, we will not have church. I am disappointed. I feel out of sorts. It’s odd to have a Saturday night that isn’t brimming with anticipation for the next morning’s worship experience. But in the midst of the disappointment in the altering of our usual plans, I’m a little excited. I wonder what the morning might bring.
I expect to find that I’ll worship in some new and different way. I intend to do so, in fact. Not sure what it will involve yet, but first and foremost, I will thank God for the gift of time – a long, luxurious, uninterrupted span of over 36 hours.
What a gift.


One of my favorite songs at Christmas time.

Any time, actually.

I knew this song, but didn’t pay it much attention until I heard it from Herbie Hancock. That’s a shame, coming from a Joni Mitchell fan, but it’s the truth. I love Corinne Bailey Rae’s version.

The album River: The Joni Letters is a beautiful offering from Herbie Hancock. Highly recommended.

Turn down the lights and close your eyes. Sit in the shadow of some twinkling lights. Let yourself think beyond December for a moment….

Why Do You Go To Church?

Mark Batterson is a wise man.

Here’s something he said this week:

“I think one of the primary problems we face in Western Christianity is the simple fact that so many people view going to church as an end instead of a means to an end. Let me explain. For those who subconsciously view church as an end in and of itself, going to church is the way they do their religious duty. They check church off the religious list. But do you really think God’s ultimate dream for our lives is to sit in a pew for ninety minutes?

Going to church isn’t an end. It’s a means to an end. The real test is how we live out our faith Monday to Friday. That’s where the rubber meets the road. Church is the locker room talk or the boardroom talk. Choose your metaphor. It’s not the game. It’s not the business. It prepares us for the game of life, the business of life.”

What do you think? What does going to church mean in your life?

blue christmas recap

This was the scene tonight as we closed our blue christmas service.

It was a meaningful night for me. The thought of a service like this has been brewing in my heart for over a year. Our production team took the idea and ran with it. Many hands and many creative ideas brought together some incredible musicians, a powerful message, beautiful service elements, kind and gentle hearts and even a harpist (an incredible musician!)
The older I get, the more I find that I react powerfully, internally, to things that a decade ago would have caused energetic and verbose reactions. Tonight was a good example. I am tired, preoccupied, distracted, and a tiny bit overwhelmed. But deep inside, my soul is satisfied.
I won’t forget tonight. I am already looking forward to next year’s blue christmas.

Feeling That Christmas Spirit

I took a trip into Richmond today with Zach and Sarah. We stopped by The Jefferson Hotel to scope out good locations for photos.

The Christmas decorations are up, and all I can say is, “O, my!”
It’s stunning. Beautiful. Elegant. Charming. Classy. Breathtaking. Awesome.
This Christmas season will be unlike any other I have ever experienced. There is a richness underneath everything leading up to Christmas Day – and The Day After – that I am savoring.
It’s remarkable. Unbelievable, really.
I’m excited.
HT to The Richmonder for the photo, taken at last week’s tree lighting.