Monthly Archives: December 2010

What’s Your Word for 2011?

I’ve been doing some dreaming and planning for 2011. Last Tuesday was “think day” for church stuff: worship planning, goals, etc. Wednesday was focused on personal life and writing. I do like the reset of a new year to refocus. The fact that the new year coincides with my birthday only reinforces the power of that. I don’t make resolutions, because those seem too rigid. I do set intentions, however. (Heck, I do that monthly, a la Happiness Project.)

One word kept coming up as I thought about 2011, and the word is “rootedness.” With such a busy life and so many demands on my time and energy, staying grounded is an ongoing challenge. It is easy to be “blown about by every wind of doctrine.” Or if not doctrine, then Internet kerfuffles, random anxieties and the crisis du jour.

My personal hopes for 2011 all grew out of that word:

  • rooted in the physical world (more walks outside, regular excursions to hike or explore)
  • rooted in deep relationships (I’m intending to write actual letters this year, and to have more phone conversations, and do less relationships-via-Facebook)
  • rooted in creativity (schedule regular “spirit days,” write the durn book).

I’ve also been playing the word game with the church. The church I used to serve would give out paper stars at Epiphany. Each had a word on it that was the person’s “prayer word” for the year. The words were all over the map: wisdom, peace, harmony.

The idea comes from a friend of mine, Margee Iddings, who recently shared the whole concept, which I love. The pastor thinks about the upcoming year: what the church will be facing, upcoming challenges and such. What virtues or attributes will be needed to face these challenges? Put those words on stars, and have people choose them at random. Then people are invited to find other people who share their word and talk briefly about what that word means to them and other brief questions.

It is often the case that people receive the word they need.

Next year, our congregation will be going through the presbytery’s “transforming congregations” project, making some decisions about what to do with our manse, and thinking about how to increase our connection to the larger community. Here are the words I chose:

  • trust
  • courage
  • compassion
  • risk
  • radiance
  • faith
  • attentiveness
  • joy

What would your word be for 2011?

Image: Epiphany Stars

Santa Lives! Plus Video

A couple of years ago, I read a blog entry by a woman whose son had just “figured out” Santa. I can’t find it now, but the post was a lovely letter to her son in which she explained that he had learned something very important: You now know that magic can come from other people—that each of us and all of us can be bringers of magic to one another. I don’t resonate with magic language, but I think she’s right: it’s not that magic has ceased to exist. Instead, we are the creators of it. Something like that, anyway.

We don’t make a big deal out of Santa in our house. Santa brings a gift or two and fills stockings on Christmas morning, but we don’t write letters to him or visit him or anything like that. He’s everywhere this time of year, so they get plenty of indoctrination without our help.

When Caroline started inquiring seriously about Santa, I explained it to her in terms of Story. (Not a big surprise if you know me.) I told her the story of Saint Nicholas, and how Santa is a character that was inspired by a real person and has lasted all these years because it is such a powerful and beautiful story. Then I said that now she is in a different part of the story. She used to be one of the people who received gifts and joy from Santa, but now she gets to both receive that joy and give it to other people, most notably her siblings. So she helped pick out stocking stuffers for James, for example.

(I have no idea whether she got that, of course. I think there is some wistfulness there. But wistfulness is not enough to convince me that Santa is some pernicious lie that we tell our children. She doesn’t feel deceived, just nostalgic.)

This year both girls wanted American Girl dolls. We had already planned to buy new bikes for James and Margaret this year, and Caroline is still angling for a telescope, and for a variety of reasons, new AG dolls just weren’t going to happen. But a friend of mine found out about this and offered us her college-age daughter’s dolls—one for each of my girls, plus accessories. A few days before Christmas, we received two big boxes full of Felicity and Kaya and a wood table and chairs and a tea set and a horse and a tepee and books and more.

It really was overwhelmingly wonderful, and that was just my reaction!

This is a perfect example of what I tried to explain to Caroline—that the Santa story is a story we participate in—and we participate in different ways as we age. My friend chose to give some joy to two little girls rather than mothball her daughter’s toys, or sell them on eBay. And because Caroline knows the full story of Santa, I was able to share with her the origins of this year’s Christmas gift. Someday I will share the story with Margaret too.

On Christmas evening, I asked if they wanted to say thank you to Santa (or in Caroline’s case, “Santa.”) Since I know Santa reads this blog, I will include their video here. [One note of explanation: Margaret is going on about the Bitty Baby high chair because that’s what Kaya sat in when the dolls had tea together. The other chair that Santa sent needs some repairs.]

I also want to say Thank You to Santa.


Several years ago I wrote a series of poems inspired by verses of Christmas carols. Since I won’t be blogging this weekend, I’ve set these to post every so often instead. Merry Christmas! Season’s Greetings!

This one was inspired by The First Nowell, verse 2. It was actually the first one I wrote that year.

they looked up, and saw a star shining
in the east
beyond them
it hung fat in the sky
and taunted them for days.
when they moved, it slid alongside,
when they stopped and turned, it halted too
and winked like an idiot.

in its message: approach.

in their response: buzz off,
swatting it;

but a few sighed:
all right.
we’ll go that way,
just to get you
off our backs.

so they turned, faced off with the light,
and walked a lingering day and night,
but the further they traveled, the more the beckoning star
remained far,
far beyond them.

Day Break

Several years ago I wrote a series of poems inspired by verses of Christmas carols. Since I won’t be blogging this weekend, I’ve set these to post every so often instead. Merry Christmas! Season’s Greetings!

This one is inspired by “Silent Night” and a VERY early morning with baby Margaret. I say this long bright streak of light in the sky and could not for the life of me figure out what it was. The sun had come up behind a cloud that was not visible in the pre-dawn sky.

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

daybreak is a blue receiving blanket
edged in baby pink, tucked tight
under the chin of a world that was
up half the night, wailing.
all is calm, tender and mild,
damp, glittering.

then out of nothing
a silver thread appears, streaks the sky
and hangs for a long piercing moment.
an airplane’s hasty journey?
or a lightning strike, frozen on film?
(I can almost believe we are standing so still)

I’ve never had to decipher the dawn.

I’m disappointed to see
the rest of the cloud come into view,
edged in light, because
if this is the dawn of redemption,
then that sliver is the sky torn in two,
not like a garment rent in anguish,
but like a peek beyond the curtain
where truly, all is bright.


Several years ago I wrote a series of poems inspired by verses of Christmas carols. Since I won’t be blogging this weekend, I’ve set these to post every so often instead. Merry Christmas! Season’s Greetings!

This one was inspired by the line from “In the Bleak Midwinter” that says, “worship the beloved with a kiss.” Margaret was about a year old when I wrote this.

though it’s embarrassing,
like talking in one’s sleep
or feeling milk chortle out the nose.
it is unseemly, the amnesia of the self,
the adoration unto death, the testimony,
against the evidence, that there is

the beloved
addressing her:
be loved,
as i am.
you cradle me, but it is i who will
save you, gather you back
from the

with a
pair of eyes studying her face, with
her palm cooling the fevered brow,
with humming, light as angels; with her arm,
taut beneath a small body; with an ever-deepening night,
with all the time in the world,
with a