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.

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.

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.

Earth Stood Hard As Iron

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone
Snow had fallen – snow on snow
Snow on snow
In the bleak midwinter, long long ago

Christina Rosetti wrote this poem in 1872. It has been set to music and recorded by many musicians in many styles. Recently, I discovered this version by Corrinne May that quickly became one of my favorites.

We are using a similar version of this song for our Blue Christmas service. We’re trying something new this year, in an effort to honor the challenges of the holiday season faced by so many. Blue Christmas is designed to honor those who are grieving during Christmas, whether it is the loss of a loved one, separation from family or friends, the death of a dream or sadness caused by some other set of circumstances. It will be a very special evening. I encourage you to come.
Blue Christmas
December 17th, 7:00 PM
@May Memorial Church
Powhatan Village

It’s Here!

Every year, for the past two decades, the Christmas spirit has settled upon me at various, unexpected moments. I never know when or how it will be ushered in. Last year, it came like this. The year before, like this.

Sometimes the falling snow is key. Sometimes it’s a song, like when my friend Helen sang the angels down at Joshua Baptist Church years ago. Sometimes it’s Charlie Brown.
This year, it was a late afternoon realization that slightly inclement weather – i.e. some wet snow – caused the cancellation of the evening’s planned activities. Miraculously, all of us were going to be home on Saturday evening.
Sarah and I were driving home from Richmond – in the snow – when the call came. We decided to make a detour and pick up a tree. After some discussion, we thought we could get away with an artificial tree this year; after all, we’re overwhelmingly busy. Nobody was going to go out to cut a tree in this weather, although that’s been a fine tradition. We called the house, told the other kids to get the stuff out of the attic and get ready – that we were getting an artificial tree on the way home.
Shannon was adamant. “This is just WRONG!” she exclaimed.
Then I called Tony to fill him in on our plans. “NO WAY!” he exclaimed.
We had two very virulent protesters of our plan – not the decorating, but the artificial part.
So, we relented. By the time we got home, Tony had a real tree in the house and we had the makings of a good dinner in hand. We spent a few hours getting the decorations up. Harry Connick sang us through, with both his recent Christmas records. Syd put the star on the tree. A good time was had by all.
Traditions are so powerful. They bind us to who we were, and give us insight into who we are yet to be. Last night was special, and provided another opportunity for buckets of grace-filled memories.
And the Christmas spirit? It landed hard all around us, as Sarah and I walked through the drizzling snow in the Lowe’s parking lot, singing “Winter Wonderland”.
It’s here.
Merry Christmas, y’all.

This was the interesting nativity scene this year; Joseph’s head turned up in a box. It was, honestly, a relief, as this was the scene two years ago:

I guess we’ll never know what really happened…