Monthly Archives: December 2011

Merry Late Christmas and Happy New Year

I’m taking the week off from blogging (and pretty much the internet in general) in order to fully enjoy the holidays with my family.

Whether you’ve been reading since the beginning or you just started, thank you for being there, on the other side of all this writing. I am grateful for you.

Wishing you and yours a peaceful last week of the year.

Home [for Christmas]

Home [for Christmas]: A metaphor for heaven.

First, the old farmhouse west of the city where my husband grew up with baseball in the yard and basketball games in the granary and all those lowing milk cows in the barn.

His mom will make that cheese bread with the green onions and bacon, and his dad will crack open a can of smoked oysters, and after all the scraps of wrapping paper have been cleaned up and the kids are asleep, we will sit up in the kitchen and play 500.

Then seven hours down I-94 to the suburbs of Chicago. Eight if we stop for dinner. Nine if there’s a lot of crying. At the first tollbooth in Illinois, the fluorescent lights will crash into the windows and wake the sleeping children in the back, and we’ll say “We’re almost there. Almost to Grandma and Papi’s.”

At the house where I grew up, my son will make a bee-line for the toy box his Grandma keeps for him, and my brother and sister and their others will hug us tight, and we’ll squeeze onto the couch, arms linked. We’ll say things like, “I’m going to take a shower! Anyone need to use the bathroom first?”

My dad will sit in his leather armchair; my mom will wear a path back and forth from the kitchen, bringing more lefse, more cookies, more slushy pink punch. Just like always, the Christmas cards will cover the garage door, spread along the living room wall, and we will look at all the pictures and marvel at how much everyone has changed.

For almost a week, my little family will be nomadic, living out of suitcases, running to Wal-Mart to pick up what I have forgotten. I will miss sleeping in my own bed, but when we leave I will cry all the way to the Elgin toll.

We are channeling, in a small way, that first small family who made the pilgrimage to their family home in the dark of winter to be counted. Home in a way, but also not home. Not really fitting in the town of their ancestors. Spending a silent night alone in a stable.

After all, this is what it is to grow up: you leave home to make your own life, and then you live in a constant tension of belonging and not belonging. Of being home for Christmas and not really home. You are always missing someone, always a little bit surrounded, always a little bit alone.

Someone somewhere passes away, and the Christians say quietly to one another “He’s gone home to be with the Lord.” And that word home as it relates to heaven conjures that jumbled feeling of belonging and not belonging, of crowded chaos and homesick loneliness and missing and being missed.

But here now: imagine. A living room big enough for all those you love. The taste of sugar cookies; the smell of evergreen; the sound of laughter. Family without hurt or pain or miscommunication. Love without loss, without leaving, without missing. And hope lengthening from that little light in a manger bed to a bright sun, filling you with warmth.

Taking a Sick Day

We are sick.

Every last one of us in our house, except possibly the dog, and who knows about him, because he’s been licking the dirty dishes in the open dishwasher all afternoon.

I am tricking my baby into smiling so that I can jam the antibiotics down his throat. I am lugging my crying, 102-degree toddler around the house, because every time I put him down he bursts into tears and says “Mommy huggin you?”

I am hacking a deep, rattling smoker’s hack into my sweatshirt sleeve and then carrying on with all the mommying…because I can’t take a sick day from my kids.

But I can take a sick day from the blog.

Instead of laboring over a phrase, a word, a cliché, I am going to go take a shower. Put on my pajamas, go to bed.

Be well, my friends. I’m going to go blow my nose now.


As if by the sheer force of our merriment, our distraction, our errand-running, we have managed to eliminate him, and now it is our serious duty to put him back in place.

We remind each other with trite sayings penned on Christmas cards. Jesus is the reason for the season, we say earnestly. We set up that Willow Tree manger set that we all went crazy for a couple of years ago—the ceramic one, where all the figures are faceless. We arrange it so that all eyes point to the babe in the straw.

We turn our candy canes upside down: See! It’s a “J” for Jesus! The nativity glows fluorescent in the yard next to the inflatable Santa and the toy soldier, and somehow, it looks all wrong.

Today, rain: big glassy droplets all down the windows. And it is so unexpected, this Minnesota December rainstorm, that I stop and look out the sliding door at the way it gathers, shivering along the railing. The kids are napping, and for a brief moment there is only this: the quiet spattering of rain – almost silent, but also not silent at all.

Be still now. It is not up to you to put Christ anywhere.

Set down the giant, light-up Joseph, who is awkward under your arms, and look around you. God does not need to be hauled into the holiday; he is already here.

Incarnation means a lot of things, but one of them is this: the earth is wild with God’s love, his beauty, his presence. One silent night he came and now he is here, and because of that, the world is glowing, lit from within by grace.

Breathe deep of the cold winter air. Feel your lungs fill up with hope.

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