A Blessing for the Longest Night

Today is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere, the shortest day of the year. For some of us, this year has felt like a series of long, dark nights. We have done our best to hold on to hope, peace, joy, and love, even one tiny spark at a time, but it hasn’t been easy. As we prepare for the end of 2020, and hopefully much brighter days ahead in 2021, I invite you to take a moment to reflect on all you have experienced this year, and to receive this blessing. 

When you step out into the darkness,
May you remember.
Remember the losses and frustrations and anxieties you have faced.
Remember the resilience and kindness you have discovered, in others and in yourself.
Remember, though you may feel small under the endless sky, that you are cherished by the One who created it.

When you step out into the darkness,
May you feel.
Feel fear and grief and anger, for they are holy and wholly appropriate at this time.
Feel hope and gratitude and joy, for they are holy and wholly appropriate at this time.
Feel your breath, your heartbeat, the love of God surrounding and sustaining you. 

When you step out into the darkness,
May you see.
See how even a single candle in a window is enough to pierce the dark and guide you home.
See planets half a billion miles away reflect the sun’s light, a promise that it’s still there.
See that no matter how long and cold and dark the night may be, the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

Dawn is coming. 

3. Do Back-to-School Shopping for a Child in Need

(This post is part of my year-long series 40 New Things at 40.)

I love shopping for school supplies. As a child, I looked forward to it every year. If I close my eyes, I can still clearly picture my very first school bag, bright red with silver buckles, emblazoned with the logo of the 1981 movie version of the musical Annie. (It looked kind of like this, except I don’t remember the main image being cartoon Annie and Sandy.) It helped me through the difficult first day of kindergarten, when I was homesick and missed my mom and a mean boy told me I had a fat belly. Pretty much every year, I would get a new backpack (except when my grandparents got my brother and me L.L. Bean backpacks, which lasted and lasted) and a colorful assortment of notebooks, folders (I still miss my Trapper Keeper), pencils, erasers, and other supplies. When I grew up, I looked forward to going back-to-school shopping with my own kids. Continue reading “3. Do Back-to-School Shopping for a Child in Need”

The Last Thing I Expected

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Last week was pretty terrible. It started with a death that was particularly tragic even by the standards of someone who works as a hospital chaplain, and it would have ended with a funeral, except that I could not bring myself to go. So much of my own emotional baggage resurfaced in the wake of this situation that I knew I would be no good as a caregiver if I went. The sadness weighed so heavy on me that I could hardly get out of bed. And then, mercifully, there was the weekend, and a friend’s birthday to celebrate, and unexpected moments of grace. Yesterday morning was good, in real and simple ways that I don’t want to lose. Continue reading “The Last Thing I Expected”

The Subversive Power of Gratitude

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Although you would hardly know it judging by all the Christmas decorations that go up even before the first of November, there is another holiday to celebrate this time of year.  And it may be more important than we realize, especially in difficult times.  I remember having dinners with my cousin and his wife, who were both pretty hostile toward religion, but no meal could begin until she had said, “I’m so thankful for this food and these people.”  I was young and a recent convert to Christianity, so I was bewildered.  One day I finally asked her, “Who are you giving thanks to when you say that?”  She smiled patiently and answered, “I don’t know really, but I have to say it.”   I think she was right.  We all have a need to give thanks. Continue reading “The Subversive Power of Gratitude”