Sunday, 29 December 2013

In defense of feasting

O holy, riotous joy that wakes with Christmas morn, the blazing sun of a world made new, the Word made flesh! All of this waiting rewarded with the cry of a babe, the shout of the heavenly armies, the farmers turned heralds and drudges turned dancers! 

Strike up the band, strike the matches and light up the world with leagues of torches, and bring one yourself, come quickly and run! Christ is born - tell the folk of the village! The Light of the World has come!

O for a thousand tongues to sing this joy, a thousand bells to ring this birth announcement, a thousand jigs and reels to play our winged feet to the manger! 

Prepare the feast and break the fast! Empty the pantry and fill up the tables! The hunger is over, the famine banished, and now to revel in the lavish spread prepared! 

Let heaven and nature sing, all creatures great and small, let everything with breath bring praise,  and crown Him Lord of all! 


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Wilderness walker

In the wilderness, the pillar, the cloud.
In the wilderness, the mount of revelation.
In the wilderness, the daily bread.
In the wilderness, the covenant.

Not by chance, not even our choice, but His choosing.

The only path to glory that we know is through the nail holes. The only way to life through the birth canal.  

The road from Jericho to Jerusalem is filled with bandits and thieves, but we may yet meet our Saviour, not in the holy robes but in the outcast’s embrace, or perhaps even in the bloodied man himself.

Our God, He is a wilderness walker, a burning bush talker. He draws a crossroads in the sand, and we can choose –

Do we walk with Him?


Friday, 13 December 2013

These Advent days

We live between His comings, lighting our candles, thankful for the fire given, longing for a day when darkness is dispelled finally.

Day and night repeat their arms-length dance, and we try to keep in step, keep in rhythm with the moments given, the tasks at hand, the rising and setting of heavenly lights.

We look for flickers of peace, flashes of joy, smiling across the table in the hopeful glow, knowing that love is a strike anywhere match, and we must keep igniting in the dark or else perish.

We look and long and live and love, and this is the light of these Advent days.


Monday, 11 November 2013

Remembrance Day 2013

Today, the prayers are punctured with cannon shot.
Today, the river runs red with mud, swollen with the memories of lives swept away.
Today, children stand in the rain and ask what all the pretty poppies are for.

And I pause and look at the guns and wonder how to explain all this to the innocent.

I pull back the curtain on human hurt, just a bit, just enough, I hope, to reveal something of sadness and thankfulness. What it all comes down to – not enough love in our hearts. We humans, we can die for lack of love.

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee.

This is the only way to peace. This is the only thing stronger than death. This is the only thing that can overcome “all this.”

Today, let every heart bloom red with love, lest all these pretty poppies be in vain.


Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Intercessions - November 6, 2013

God of the sleepless nights,

Of the weary restless, the heavy-lidded, heavy-laden ones. Give your beloved rest. You who neither sleep nor slumber, soothe insomniac hearts with the steady beating of your own. Sing over the tousled beds, the troubled heads, till all the tangled soul wanderings run smooth and still. Rock away the little fears, the hidden tears, till every child can sleep in heavenly peace. Keep our nights in the hollow of your hand, that when we awake we will be satisfied, still with you.


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

little boy beauty

Beauty is a brown-eyed babe,
Flannel soft and smiling.
Beauty is the steady gaze,
Tender and beguiling.

Beauty is a dimpled cheek,
Smooth and round and warm.
Beauty is the hushing body,
Tucked into my arm.

Beauty is a holding hand,
Whispers of the skin.
Beauty is beholder’s eye,
Wide to take it in.


Monday, 28 October 2013


How does one embrace the descent? Imitate the weightless beauty of the falling leaf, the leaping stream?

How does one dive wholeheartedly, headfirst into the baptismal font every single day? To abandon all hope of living for self, to drown this choking rebellion till at last lungs are filled in the depths of death’s cold spring?

And where is my end, if all I have I throw into the cracks of the earth, into these rivulets of sacrifice,
          down, down, down,
                              to what end?

My only prayer - 

Swallow me up and spit me out clean.


Sunday, 27 October 2013


Do you remember it? The first outfit you chose for your baby girl? Perhaps a decidedly pink sleeper and matching hat. Or an impossibly tiny and frilly dress. Do you remember it? The care, the delight, the amazement of choosing those darling clothes? Do you remember dressing your daughter for the first time, how those little limbs would not stay put, just how she wiggled and made that face and wondered what was going on?

Today, friends of ours will be choosing their daughter’s last outfit. I cannot imagine how they will choose. What love will finger those threads, will tremble in carrying such grown up clothes to the counter. What grief to lay them out and know the stillness with which they will finally rest.

At the beginning and the end, we are all helpless to dress ourselves.

And sometimes in the middle of it all, we can be left feeling stripped, naked, wondering what is going on.

But there is One who comes when everything is inside out and wraps His cloak around us. He wraps His arms around us, and we can crawl into our Father’s lap and into His comfort. 

And somewhere in the middle of it all, this living, heaving, laugh and cry world, we remember the joy. We remember we are all His children.


Friday, 27 September 2013

A little prayer for the unraveled life

Today – when life pokes holes in my perfect plans, I will reach through the wounds and to the side of the saviour.
Today – when the threads of my sanity unravel, I will let down my hair and kiss his feet.
Today – when all I have seems to wear threadbare, I will stretch out and touch the hem of his garment.

Today – I will shed my patchwork sufficiency and weave all my loose ends into the seamless robe of Christ. 


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Dear Abraham

Dear Abraham,

It’s been awhile, and hard to know how to measure the time, but I think I've found a footing in the promised land. And I think I get what you were trying to tell me about the sacrifice. The willing knife let me see the ram. In my own stubbornness, I didn't want to accept the provision. But by grace I got caught in the thicket, where struggle subsided into submission and I was ready for the altar. I cut the cords and found I didn't need them. My heart and all my blood stood still, and I knew He was God

He and not I, and everything else faded and there was the freedom I had been running so hard to find.

A new longing rises from the stillness, desire refined by the fire and all the brighter for it. It surrounds me like the pillars of old, now blazing, now blanketing, and when I step out of the tent at night I see a million promises beckoning. I think of you and smile. It may be a thousand years or it may be tomorrow, but I know we’ll stargaze together again. 


Monday, 12 August 2013

morning play

Cats and kids run together across daybreak's dewy grass, a lively, giggling, pouncing riot of energy. We tumble out of the house, upturned by the urge to stretch and squeal and see just what this day is made of.

The world is here and waiting, fresh for us after a night of puckish plotting, inviting us to a game of hide and seek. "Count to ten, then catch me if you can," it shouts. We close our eyes and play along, breathe deep, then burst out after the trail of wonder.

Oh, there is a sweetness, a rightness, to begin the day this way.

This is the play that leads to prayer,
arms wide open prayer,
cartwheels of prayer.


Friday, 26 July 2013

For All the Good Christian Girls Gone Wrong

We good Christian girls are doomed to live in the messes of our own making, because we know better. Deserving of our doom – yes, this is our self-judgment. And so there is no choice but to buckle down and bear it, to accept our lot, all the while denying our deep suffering for fear the truth will bring us shame.
Better to soldier on than face the shame.
Choices have consequences, and we have no one to blame but ourselves for our imperfect choices. Thus, we bear the responsibility of the imperfect consequences.
We adjust. Expectations, the deep desires of our hearts – all adjusted to fit our present circumstances so we don’t feel the discrepancy. We cannot feel the discrepancy, for then we would feel our failure, and our Father’s disappointment, and there is nothing worse.
If we let ourselves feel the pain, we make sure the pronouncement of our deserving it is quick to follow.
And this, this we turn into our twisted sacrifice, our cross to bear. We have failed – failed ourselves, our family, our God, and the sense of it smolders. It smolders and smothers and we think we are dying to self.

We could not be more wrong.
Self could not be more alive.

We have failed, but not in the way we first thought. We have failed to grasp grace.

This sense that we deserve it? Deserve to lie crippled in these beds we have made because these are the rules? One. big. lie.
Oh, if we are talking about the way the world works, the way human nature works, the way the Law works, we are correct.

Correct, but not right.

For the right way has been shown by God, and it is not our way.
God is most correct to condemn us. But we good Christian girls get stuck here. And what’s worse, we stay and build our lives here.
God’s rightness was shown in Jesus on the cross, taking full responsibility for every imperfect choice and the consequences thereof, even those made by good Christian girls who tell themselves they should have known better.
And our smoldering heaps of disappointed martyrdom? Just another disguise for self-righteousness. Just another way we try to prove ourselves to God.

So afraid of shame, we forfeit our freedom.
So afraid to hope, we dare not pray.

Our sacrifices are not enough, and never will be. Our silent suffering will never atone for our shortcomings.

Oh, come to the cross and bury your damnation in His death! Throw your failures onto His finished work and be free! Receive freely what you’ve been trying to deserve all along – grace.

There is grace for the good girls who do not feel good enough. We don’t need to feel good enough, but we can be made right. Right here, right now.
All our disappointments, self-doubt, and despair – finished. All our suffocating striving and self-made shackles – finished. All our fear of failure and faithlessness – finished.

Let go and live.
Live out of His love and let fear be cast out.
Live out of His delight and let the desires of your heart come to life again.
Live out of His faithfulness and let faith arise.

Let go of the mess and see yet what God may make of it. Rise out of that bed and walk. Restoration . . . healing . . . hope – no, not what you deserve, but what God desires. This is the gospel, and it is for good Christian girls, too. 

Thursday, 27 June 2013


Last night I held a baby chick in my hand, one that hatched here in Wheatley River, part silkie. So soft, so fragile, clinging to life by a dropper of sugar water and a heating lamp. It had been too cold yesterday afternoon. The day before was sweltering near 30. But then a shift, a sudden drop, and this little one was overtaken by shivers. I marveled at the delicate intricacy of its emerging feathers, of the warmth of its faltering heart – one of God’s creatures. It died before morning, and our eyes leaked salty water.  

This morning we found the first strawberries down by the chicken coop. We had unearthed the patch quite by surprise, clearing out brush early this spring. Arden brought one in to me, perfectly red, perfectly ripe, as if timed to my breakfast. Fruit in season – what could be sweeter? You can’t buy that life on a shelf.

Today I thinned the carrots and turnips. Too many, too close, and the harvest will be thin and twisted. So I pulled up the tiny roots, already veggies in miniature. I marveled at the faint purple of the turnip roots, the hearty green of suncatcher leaves, the very life of these seed babies. I tossed them in the compost pile. Maybe I’ll eat them next year.

This afternoon I found a chipmunk, dead, in the grass by the old tractor. One of the cats must have got it. I swelled at my cat’s hunting skills while mourning the chipper motion that was halted forever, here on the lawn. I lifted it with the spade and laid its life to gentle rest beneath one of the hedgerow’s rotting logs.

Life – size does not determine its significance. Creation whispers as powerfully as it roars, and I am caught up in its Gloria.

Life – it comes and goes between my fingers, and all I can do is try to catch the joy and cradle the sorrow . . . keep my hands cupped open. 


Sunday, 16 June 2013

Father's Day 2013

To the fathers who have chosen the narrow way,
who have made wise decisions, and brave decisions,
whose conviction has kept us strong,
and whose faithfulness has kept us together –
Thank you.

You are not perfect, but you've chosen the path of grace –
the ancient wisdom, the courage of sacrifice,
the strength of a Good and Perfect Father
whose faithfulness has kept you together.

You have chosen love,
over and over.
You have chosen us,
over and over.
Thank you.

*For Micah, Dad, Alan, Grandad, and the fathers who have already heard, "Well done, good and faithful servant." With much love. 


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Motherhood Prayer

The God-graced moments in the plain of this life,
where I lift up my eyes,
and my soul is lifted to the mountain of God.

A long, hot shower,
those quiet moments nursing,
the view out the kitchen window over the stack waiting to be washed.
These are my vistas to Zion.

The mountain descends in the midst of the day, and the still, small voice whispers over our domestic noise. I do not always have the luxury of a long ascent. But the grace of this season is that just one step is enough, and He comes running the rest of the way, and He does not despise my dirty dishes.

Motherhood is a constant march to Zion – beautiful, beautiful Zion! – and each step can be worship, and each day can be prayer, and each home can be host to the city of God.


Friday, 7 June 2013

Prayer to God of the Mighty Hand

God of the Mighty Hand,

Make my arms strong for my task. These little lives are the weightiest thing I have ever held. My hands are full, and some days weary, but let me hold on to love even if all else drops. Make these arms patient and kind. Help them to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things. 

Your outstretched arm never fails, so I lean in when mine go limp, leaning on an everlasting strength. Though I am weak, I will not lose heart, for what I hold here is a glorious weight. I will stretch these arms out yet again and let the little children come. Love lift us all. 


Thursday, 6 June 2013


We are going to make a garden. We don’t know much yet, but we figure we’ll give it a go. We don’t see much yet, but the ground whispers beneath our feet and we know it is ready.

And so we begin to cultivate.

We wrestle the earth from this overgrown chaos, this slow moving spread of stinging nettle, this formless and fruitless void. We peel back the sod to see if the worms still wriggle like when we were children, digging these digitized hands back into the dust of the earth. We remember a time of play, of creation. The sun smiles warmly on our little plot. Yes, this is where we will remake Eden!

We are all hope and dreams and seed catalogues, and so we are somewhat taken aback by the resistance. The fresh soil, so promising in its appearance, does not yield to our fingers. It is hard and clumpy, almost rocklike in its determinacy to stay just where it has always been. And what is this – shards of glass? slivers of tarred shingles? shreds of plastic bags? They are practically glued into the clay, some twisted potter’s practical joke.

We get out the garden rake, the old rusty one we found in the back of shed next to the oil cans and chicken wire. It claws a pattern into the stubborn ground but barely penetrates. We pull and grunt and manage to break apart a few of the clods.

We frown. Swat a fly. Sense a blister forming.

What we have here is not enough. All our effort and we would still have only clay pebbles. The rain would come and the soil would clump. The sun would shine and the surface would crack. The seeds would sprout but their roots would choke. What we have here is just not good soil.

And so we put the rake away. Put our precious rattling packages back on the shelf. It is not the time to plant. Not yet. We are going to get a whole lot dirtier first. The green life will come, but what we really need just now is more death. A few big wheelbarrows full. The plot is lost without it.

Good loam. When the weeds have been pulled and the trash has been plucked and the rocks have been tossed; when apple cores and ashes have turned to black beauty and what has long fallen becomes fertile ground; when the sharp spines of work-shined tools cut room for the worms; when the only Life-Giving Death has made its way to our rotted core, and when the clay submits to the New Earth – then we will plant.


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Waiting Here For You

This met me at just the right moment. It's been on repeat.

[My first introduction to this song was through Martin's Smith's new solo album, God's Great Dance Floor. Here it is live with Martin Smith and Jesus Culture.]


Thursday, 16 May 2013

Letters to Arden: The Eve of Three

On a spring evening in May the lawn tractor’s rumble disturbs the placid village scene. It’s Daddy-O on his vintage Bolens, with Arden along for the ride.

Arden, about to be three tomorrow. Have you reached this eve already?

I step out onto the back porch and it’s all slanting golden light and fresh cut grass, and the two of you are in your own little world. You are in your pink spring coat and your “jelly bean” rubber boots, and you are singing a song at the top of your lungs! I can’t hear you over the rumble, and I suppose that’s why it’s so much fun.

Daddy waves, the other arm holding you over the bumps, and you wave too in a careless sort of way, smiling through your boisterous song.

On the eve of three, there is an eager wonder about your days.

On the eve of three, you want to know whether the caterpillar we saw yesterday has made its cocoon and got its big wings yet.
You want to know if it’s windy enough to fly the kite.
You want to know if our neighbour is home from school yet so you can play with her.
You want to know what day it is because you know that Friday is your birthday, and you concentrate on holding up just three fingers to show me how old you will be.  

On the eve of three, the whole world is opening up before you.

Apple blossoms and adventures in the woods!
Bicycles! Birthday parties!
Counting chicken eggs and chasing bubbles on the breeze!
Every little thing is a big thing, just like this tractor ride.

Tonight you are queen of the back yard, and with one of Daddy’s arms around you, you are ready for whatever tomorrow brings. And we will welcome Three together with the morning sun, but right now I’m just standing here taking you in, both arms full of the eve of three.


Wednesday, 15 May 2013


Mother, some days are hotter than others.

The demands and defiance fly like sparks, and you are prone to ignite up with them.

Oh, mother, mother, when the fire blazes, come stand in the cloud and hear this word:

 “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” *

Hear this word of your Father and this heart for the child.

Compassion is cooling and grace takes its time. Slow to anger.

Stop and let all of this goodness descend.

When anger wants to shout, love whispers His Name first.


*Exodus 34:6-7


Sunday, 5 May 2013

Pour - a communion reflection

You pour your love into our hearts. Yes, in this I can and must hope, for I come to communion empty, drained out by the steady drip of day-after-day. And what can I do but open wide and guzzle, drink this juice like a thirsty toddler, needing to consume the very nature of love, which is your crimson sacrifice. I don’t need a shotglass, I need a baptism, but maybe this sacrament can split me open till my parchment paper covering dissolves into the deep cracks of spirit and I am filled. It is but a cup, but the substance is all my hope, all by faith, all so real. And I might just have enough of your blood sugar to keep me going, to keep me loving, because my love does fail but your real presence does not. So turn these drops into a downpour and me into visible grace.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

One red balloon

Once upon a one year old, a little boy fell in love with a red balloon.

It was your very first birthday party. There was a blue frosted boat cake with a candle, and singing, and presents, and the noisy joy of running children, and even Grandma. Your world was a merry one that day, hands dug into chocolate cake and ice cream, hugs from adoring family and friends. But your whole world stopped when one red balloon was snipped from the bunch and handed to you. You were hooked.   

Eyes wide, face turned up, floating somewhere between awe and glee, you held on for sheer joy. It bobbed and danced, played peek-a-boo and tickled your nose, and followed you wherever you went. You wouldn’t let go.

The party faded, for this was all you ever wanted and didn’t know it till now.

Funny how perfection can sneak up on you like that. You look over your shoulder just to make sure it’s still there. It is, and you glow rosy with it.

Oh, the wonder of first love – your heart captured on a string and lifted straight up as if by magic. You hold on and on, and this is pure happiness, and why would anyone ever let go? No, nothing compares to this singular balloon. Nothing compares to the weightless delight of one year old love.


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

This morning

Is it a woman’s weakness that makes me want to cling to you? The exaggerated emotion of one easily overwhelmed? Or is this love?

And what love is this that the life squeezed out before my eyes now stands here speaking my very name? This is joy and longing and bewilderment and how can this be? You are warmth, you are solidity, you are strength, and I never want to let this go. Too soon, too soon you untangle me and tell me to tell the others, and I cannot help but speak of what I have heard and seen. Yet I would make a garden just for you if this morning could be every morning.

I run with this news a fire in my bones, my mouth touched with coal, and I cry holy, holy, holy and hallelujah, and yes, your warmth still lingers on my fingertips, and yes, I am but a foolish woman, but you chose me and I will shame the wise with this bodily gospel, for I was never alive till today.


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Letters to Arden - March 20, 2013

Dear Arden,

Today is the first day of spring! You wouldn’t know to look at it though – it’s a real snowstorm outside. All the world is wintery white, and so we are staying home and staying warm today. I know you’ve been waiting for spring, and that’s what makes March so hard! March can never make up its mind. But it will come, and it will be warm, and it will make you so happy! There’s nothing so amazing as seeing the world burst into life again.

Easter is coming soon too, and so for our little Bible story time this morning, I pulled out a simple picture book of the Easter story. You sat beside me on the couch, and Jack sat on the floor, absorbed in a basket of toys. I told you about the pictures – Jesus riding a donkey into Jerusalem, and all the people waving branches and shouting “Hosanna!” You looked at me sideways, like I was being silly, but Jack liked that part, and turned from his toys to wave his little hands back at us. I told you about the supper Jesus had with his friends, and how he went to a garden to pray. I told you about the mean men who took Jesus and made him carry a cross.

“That’s Jesus, Mommy,” you said, pointing to the man carrying the cross. And then we turned the page.

“Jesus died,” I said quietly. You looked at me, leaned closer and put your hand on my arm.

You know who Jesus is. We sing “Jesus Loves Me” almost every day. You know what died means. Our cat, Scratchy, died last fall and we buried her in the ground. You know somehow, instinctively, that these two things should not go together.

I said it again, and showed you the grave where they put Jesus’ body. You were quiet. You were sad. You were unsure. Oh, little girl, you wouldn’t know it to look at it, but the best part of the story is on its way.

We turned the page again, this time to a smiling, standing Jesus. “Jesus is alive again!” I said, and I didn’t have to pretend to be excited. And your face burst into life, and you looked at me with wonder in your eyes. I told you all about it, and then you wanted to go back to the part where he died, just so you could see it happen one more time.

“Where’s our Jesus, Mommy?” you asked at the end of the story. “He’s in heaven now,” I said. You paused a moment, then reassured me, “He will come to play in the sand here, in the summertime.” That seemed to settle the matter.

 One day, my love, it will make more sense. Right now I am happy that this story is being planted into who you are, and I know that “our Jesus” will make it grow till it turns your heart into warmest spring, and it will be amazing.

Love Mommy



Wednesday, 6 March 2013

morning gift

To see the morning as gift – this is the prayer of the tired mother. When even the day itself threatens to become one big inconvenience, it must be remade in this whispered offering, made into the day I can rejoice in. To let go of the covers is to give up the warm comforts of self and most coveted sleep, and I open my hands and stumble down the hall and into what I hope is grace to make these steps firm today.

Cries from the crib change to coos in my arms and a big flannel smile. The fire flickers into a blaze and the coffee blooms in the French press, and I can feel some warmth seeping in. It’s not the warmth of the bed, no; it is the warmth of a day begun, a day chosen. A day I may have to offer again so I can live this gift and not let it slip away, not stomp all over it because it is not going my way.

A little boy bounces with joy, wide eyed for the wide open day, and I smile too, whisper a thank you for the day – yes, even the morning.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

kingdom wise

I know nothing about so many things.

Where to begin?

With the fear of the Lord. With prayer.

(Refusing to hide under the covers of condemnation when failures, inevitable, growl like monsters under the bed.)

With humility, acknowledging all I am not to the one Who Is, ineffably - the Only Wise God.
With the search, the entreat, the door-pounding of those who will be made kingdom wise.
With hope, verily, verily, that the beatitude-broken will indeed be blessed.


Monday, 28 January 2013

fleeting thoughts

These days, thoughts seem fleeting and fragmentary. No painted mental landscapes, only quick sketches to capture something of their form. This is how many women have thought, and written – under aprons, under stairs, under stress and the influence of a certain sleepless stupor. I am not ashamed to join their company, and hope that one day these fragments may take shape into something that lives and moves, something with being.


Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Book List 2012

Here is the list of books I read in 2012. (I feel I might be missing something, but I can't think what it is!) I still have a number of books on the go that will make it into the 2013 list. The numbers are down since last year, but having children will do that to a person!

The tally:
8 fiction
6 theology/Christian life
4 nonfiction
18 total

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
Everything I Want to Do is Illegal – Joel Salatin
The Frozen Thames – Helen Humphreys
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare
Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem On the Dignity and Vocation of Women – Pope John Paul II
La’s Orchestra Saves the World – Alexander McCall Smith
Eschatology: A Futurist Perspective – Thomas L Holdcroft
Mysterious Apocalypse – Arthur Wainwright
The Mission of Motherhood – Sally Clarkson
Heart and Home: A Reaffirmation of Traditional Mothering – Debra Evans
The VBAC Companion – Diana Korte
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – Ina May Gaskin
The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein
Canadian Pie – Will Ferguson
The Virgin Cure – Ami McKay
Jane of Lantern Hill – LM Montgomery
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis (read aloud to my nephew!)
Healing Through the Centuries – Ronald Kydd

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