Humble Audacity

A single flame in the darkness,

a single note in the silence,

a single child in a stable–

only God would have

the humble audacity to appear this way

when He wanted to reach everyone in the world.

He could have come with crashes of lighting

flashing across the entire sky.

He could have come with legions of angels,

fast and furious,

but He came instead in the quiet–

His little cries

barely heard above the donkey’s breath.

He came with a love as warm as hot chocolate

that spreads slowly through your whole body

and makes everything right.

He came small enough to fit himself

–the creator of the universe–

into each human heart,

affirming that each person

is a universe unto themselves–

infinitely precious and loved.

Tiny note, little light, set the world aflame with joy!

Merry Christmas at last!

Merry Christmas finally from all of us here at Crazyland! My friend Leah gave me a funny note today that said, “Better late than later!” So while I drink my coffee and ponder whether to say I’m sick of being too tired to blog, or tired of being too sick to blog, I’ll begin.

We finished a busy month of redoing the basement suite just in time to decorate for Christmas. I tried really hard to fight my scatterbrained last-minute ways and do stuff ahead of time, so my tip of the season is this: pre-stuff the stockings a few days ahead and put them in a giant Tupperware tub so no tiny visitors (children move or other) will get into them.

It sure was awesome to not be filling the stockings in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve! Instead, I could just lay them on the kids’ beds (which we do to buy a little time in the morning) and head off to midnight Mass with my husband and the baby, while the kids slept with Grandma and Auntie Karen.

It was beautiful. Our parish florist always does an amazing job, and our choir is phenomenal. All the light and warmth in the darkness of night brings home the beauty of the Christmas message. Happily on the incense didn’t set off the fire alarms–until Christmas-day Mass the next day that is! Needless to say my 3 year old son was in his glory at the back of the church when the firemen came to check it out. He was still wearing his red fireman costume (to avoid a pre-Mass meltdown…plus…it’s red! Super Christmassy!).

Nice costume, buddy! Fist pump!

Best. Christmas. Ever.

But back to midnight Mass. When we got home around 3am (there was a celebration with treats after the Mass) we found out that the kids had already woken up, opened, partially consumed, and played with the contents of their stockings, and had gone back to sleep! Rascals! And they look so innocent…

Christmas Day was lovely. We had James’ mom and sister as well as my brother spending the day with us. “Gezellig” (cozy), as they say in Dutch, and everyone enjoyed spoiling each other a bit. My big surprise was opera tickets for La Boheme from my husband! 🙂 Date night, here we come!

I discovered that it’s really easy to cook a whole chicken in my Instant Pot (just add a cup of water or sauce and your flavourings…we put lemon, herbs, garlic and butter), and we made potatoes, yams with cinnamon and maple syrup, and Brussels sprouts, which apparently contain excellent health benefits, even if you only look at them! 😉 I can’t quite remember where I read that…

All was good until after pumpkin pie, when I totally crashed and fell asleep early. My Christmas duties were complete…so my body figured it was the perfect time to get the stomach flu that night! 😦 No fun. Thank goodness our relatives and James were still home the next day to hold the fort, because I could not move. All I really wanted for Christmas was a nap and a massage, but this was quite the price to pay…watch what you wish for!

As I lay there with a churning stomach, headache and sore muscles, I contemplated the Incarnation…how incredibly generous it was of God to enter our world as a tiny, vulnerable baby, unable to move or protect Himself from suffering. He could have remained aloof in the golden warmth of Heaven, safe from our sufferings, not subject to weakness, but chose instead to enter into our frail human existence to show us His love.

I will never comprehend the depths of His generosity!

Well, that’s about it for now! Normal life sure feels good after you’ve been sick. A breath of cold air when you can stand upright again is a real treat.

God bless you all, and best wishes for a beautiful 2019!!

Christmas Sing-Along

For all the parents out there getting ready for Christmas despite being sick or having sick kids…know you’re not alone! 🙂

‘Tis the season to be slimy

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Pass the Kleenex and quit whining

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Don we now our striped pyjamas

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Blow your nose and snort like llamas

Fa la la la la, la la la la

See the baby drool before us

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Say it’s bedtime–they’ll ignore us

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Children will not sleep with pleasure

Fa la la la la, la la la la

But it’s quiet time I treasure

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Fast away, the evening passes

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Mom and dad, find the wine glasses

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Not too late for midnight shopping

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Amazon–there is no stopping

Fa la la la la, la la la la


Fa la la la la, la la la la

Fa la la la la, la la la la

Christmas and the fragile gift of life

It’s easy at Christmas to feel as though you should write something joyful and sparkly…like a glimmering Christmas ball…round, perfect and whole. We yearn for such happiness, particularly at Christmas, when it seems possible to snatch down a little piece of a Heaven and bask in its glow in our very homes…but for how many is this image a real reflection of Christmas?

For many people, their Christmas balls have been cracked, chipped, or even shattered. Somehow the imperfections of this life, of our particular family or health situations, stand out more strongly when we compare them with the cosy images on Christmas cards. The innocence of a child, face glowing with anticipation of the ‘perfect’ happiness to be found in the toy shop window trimmed with sparkling snow, has been robbed from many of us as life’s tougher trials have set in.

For myself and many friends, one of these trials is the suffering of seeing aging parents struggling with their health. The ones who have meant our stability and safety in the world are now often clinging to life as to a very fragile gift, one we can’t guarantee won’t break. As we grow, we realize just how many things are out of our control. Like how major surgery will go for a beloved parent on Christmas Eve. And -thank goodness!-it went well, which was the best Christmas present by far this year.

In this age of instant gratification and micromanaging, Christmas is a powerful reminder that the things that matter most–life, love, family and friends–are beyond our control–in fact are complete and utter gifts. Ones we should give thanks for every day. Ones we should never take for granted. Life is vulnerable and precious, and it is made sweeter by those who are willing to experience it with us, suffering and all.

One of them is a baby, one who chose to leave the perfect safely and joy of Heaven to lay down on straw with us, to experience cold, hunger, loneliness and fear with us. The “I am Who am” became the “I am Who am with you.” Emmanuel. God with us, every step of the way.

Comforted by this divine tenderness, let’s stir up our hearts to look forward to the new year with trust and joy, because despite all our struggles, we are always loved, and never really alone. These are my thoughts as I anticipate meeting my new baby daughter next week, 3 weeks early because my pregnancy liver condition means that sooner is safer. Little one, you are a precious, fragile gift, and I can’t wait to hold you with great joy!

Merry Christmas, everyone, and peace be with you and yours in 2018.

Snow Scent 


Last night it smelled like snow–

when I stepped outside 

the air was crisp and icy–

pregnant with promise.  

In my garden 

the late blooming sunflowers

with their damp, cold petals

looked crestfallen and forlorn

as if thinking:

“I wasn’t expecting this!”

In the early morning half-light

I see the rooftops are powdered with icing sugar.

The kids wake up with excitement

and begin dreaming of gingerbread. 

My seven year old starts spouting:

“Snow says Christmastime…stuff has to stop growing sometime. 

If flowers never stopped growing there would be vines everywhere

Even in the road, and the cars could hardly go.”

Well, there you go. The seasons explained!

Messy, vulnerable perfection…

I heard a story of a baby conceived in difficult circumstances…a troubled teenage mom, the father not involved, the family in distress and full of uncertainty. And I thought about Christmas—the Holy Family…young, poor, without a place to stay, rejected…a bad scene—from the outside. And inside, for the eyes of faith: warmth, love, light, God’s graceful providence. And hope. Hope because God in His great mercy was willing to share in our fragile human life…in the messy, vulnerable perfection that is a baby. 

Do we reject Him? Do we run away from the source of all goodness because He has the smell of a stable? Because He is okay with a bed of straw? Do we keep seeking Him in the silken sheets of palaces, because we want a God made in our image? And this is the image we want: riches, comfort, power, control. Not the messy, vulnerable perfection that is a baby. 

These are not new ideas, but I think they are worth revisiting. Because embracing new life, no matter what the circumstances, is a way to embrace God. Trusting that He is with us in everything, and is able to bring good out of everything, even when we mess up, even when things don’t go according to our plans—made with our small human minds and our limited vision. Even when our plans don’t include the messy, vulnerable perfection that is a baby. 

But maybe it’s precisely that baby who will be our salvation, who will bring untold goodness to the world, who will change our lives and our hearts for the better. This Christmas season, which is still going on, let’s try to remember that in embracing our human reality, with all its difficulties, we are also embracing God, who has entered into it…Who has raised it up to touch the Divine. When we eventually caress the face of that baby, born unplanned and unexpected, let us realize we are also touching the face of God, who enters our lives with His unexpected plans, and changes them forever. 

 

A Moment with Mercy

I didn’t write on my blog yet this Christmas because I didn’t want to make people sad, and yet I couldn’t force myself to be unnaturally chipper. So here I am again, crawling out from under the Christmas tree like a grumpy hedgehog with decorations stuck all over, to share with you what it was really like.

I wish I could say Christmas was all sparkles and magic, and that it was filled with Hallmark moments. I wish I could say that it’s wrong that Christmas is hard when you’re grieving, but I can’t. Normally, the manger scene with it’s beautiful image of family, the warm circle of love around a newborn baby, brings me such consolation, but this year it hurt to look at it. I could relate better to the empty manger beforehand, but the sweet statue of the baby Jesus just makes me long for mine.

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This year, before the child came down from Heaven, mine went up. And this bittersweet exchange brings me to tears. God didn’t ask me for anything more than he gave himself, but then, he is very generous, so it was a lot.

My other children had a lovely time with our wonderful family who came to be with us on Christmas Day, and I am so glad, but for me it wasn’t really Christmas until we decorated baby Josephine’s wreath on Boxing Day. Our neighbours who are good friends of ours came along, too. That meant a lot.

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There isn’t much I can do to feel better right now, except to reach out to others in my brokenness, and let them know they are not alone in their pain. As my friend Julia wisely pointed out to me, everyone has some secret burden weighing on their heart. Perhaps me being vulnerable can open the door for others to share their struggles as well, and in the sharing, be consoled.

It has been said that it is in showing mercy that we give others hope, so this is my goal, to spread a little more hope. So as part of my own healing, I am reaching out on behalf of a family in the Philippines who is struggling and needs support, and sharing their story with you once more.

They are my friend Christina’s nanny Mercy’s family. I’ve met Mercy a few times. The first time she came with Christina and her mom Lynne to help me organize and declutter my house. A task equivalent to rollerblading up Mt. Everest, but they did wonders, and took away a van load of stuff. For me this was a great act of mercy!

The second time was earlier this month, to talk about the idea of starting a group funding campaign for Mercy’s extended family (parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, etc) whom she has supported by herself for over 20 years. With shy reluctance, she began to tell me her story. Growing up too poor to own chairs. Eating the cheapest dried fish with her siblings. The region plagued by unemployment. Then, long years away from her home, sending back every spare penny, as she still does.

And now, she has been forced to take her father home from palliative care because the hospital cost too much. A while back, sitting by his bedside, she complained of the heat, to see if he still understood her words. He tried to fan her despite hardly being able to move, because she is still his baby, even though he is dying. Her diabetic mother is unable to visit the doctor for treatment and medicine, again, because it cost too much.

Mercy’s meagre savings were recently drained by her niece Chloe being born very sick and needing a month in intensive care. Chloe hasn’t been able to breast feed, but paying for formula means that the other family members eat less, since it’s about $90 a month. Chloe’s mother is planning to move to Canada as well to help support the family and will have to leave her baby girl behind. What a choice to have to make, to leave your baby, in order to make sure she has enough to eat!

Now Mercy is trying to buy a small piece of land further away from the unsafe volcano base where her family currently lives, and the second half of the payment is due in early January. Her fundraiser has just over a day left. Would you consider helping her out by making a donation or sharing her page with others? Perhaps you could give $10, the price of one fancy New Year’s Eve drink, to symbolically toast the good health of Mercy and her family. Or perhaps if Santa has been generous with you this year, you could give more.

My kids saved up $35 in change by doing extra chores and proudly donated it. I added a little more. Every bit helps.

You won’t believe what a little Mercy can do…

“Oh, Holy Night:” A Reflection on Wholeness

A few evenings ago we braved Christmas tree decorating with our little nest of 5 squirrels, aged 7 years to 8 months. It went surprisingly well. There were no major squabbles, decorations broken, or Christmas tree climbings. The baby squirrel did try to bat at the tree, and sucked on a star, but happily it was wooden.

The best part, besides the baby squirrel’s look of amazement when we turned the lights on the tree, was our two year old’s triumphant “I did it!” after she hung up each decoration. The lowest branches got very decorated! Every time she hung one she leaped into her pleased daddy’s arms and gave him a big hug.

While we decorated we listened to the Classic Christmas playlist on my Songza app (which I totally recommend). Songza has soundtracks for every mood and occasion. It’s like custom radio with no commercials: a digital DJ. Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer is the most popular song in my house, but the kids like some of the traditional carols as well.

As we draw closer to this special time of the year, I’ve been reflecting a little on this holiness we sing about in carols. What does it mean?

When we think of the first Christmas night, the virgin birth, the choirs of angels filling the night sky with song, the birth of a savior, we perhaps think of beauty, light, transcendence, miracle. Wonderful things, but perhaps very ‘other’ than ourselves, very removed from our lives today.

From my limited experience with Hebrew, I believe holy, ‘kadosh,’ does indeed mean ‘set apart’. Is holiness something just for ancient biblical tales then, or is it something that involves me today?

It’s good to remember that this very extraordinary event of the first Christmas took place in very ordinary circumstances. In a stable or cave, surrounded by warm farm animals, munching hay while their breath rose in steamy clouds in the chill night air.

The first visitors were the humble shepherds, not the wise kings, so throughout the Christmas story, the theme of littleness prevails. Glory swaddled in humility, power curled up delicately as an infant in his mother’s arms.

Again, how does this image of holiness relate to me, today? Am I to try to imitate these ancient people in an exterior way, to try to conform to a particular image of goodness?

The more I mediate on the idea of holiness, the more I see that it is precisely in being wholly oneself, that one can reach holiness.

That to try to conform in non-essential exterior things in attempt to appear a certain way, is quite the opposite of holiness, for it is a betrayal of your own wholeness, a marring of the divine image which God made you. You are a unique, unrepeatable creation. Who you are is good; after all, you were His idea! You are loved exactly as you are.

Sometimes along the paths of life we pick up lots of emotional junk; it sticks to us and hides the beautiful image inside. I think the process of holiness is one of removing all this non-essential garbage: fear, pride, resentment, blame, etc to uncover the original creation that is truly you. This is a big process, one of a lifetime, and can feel overwhelming. Ask your Creator to help reveal his masterpiece. A little more each day.

So this Christmas, a season of gratitude, dig deep to find what is unique and beautiful in you, and give thanks for it. Without comparing yourself to others, because it is the sum of all the crazy, amazing people in the world that makes it such a wonderful place. Each with their own gifts to contribute, their own lessons to teach and to learn.

Here is a quote from humorist Erma Bombeck, who was a housewife, mother of three, and prolific writer of newspaper columns and books, including the awesomely titled “The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank.”

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’

I encourage you to embrace your passion, nurture your creativity and believe your dreams can come true. Try something you always wanted to but were too afraid. Make the world a better place as only you, with your specific mission in life, can. This way you’ll be more holy, wholly, you. And that, in my opinion, is exactly what God had in mind.

And now, lest I’m all talk and no action, I’m off to the dishes, part of my particular mission to care for my family.

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