The Quietest Glory

The Quietest Glory

We have this little porcelain nativity scene. I’m not sure where we got it, but it’s been part of our Christmases forever. A few years ago someone gave us two angels that dwarf the other figurines, but my youngest always puts them right behind Mary and Joseph. Those towering angels make me think of the imagery in Psalm 18 of God Himself soaring in to rescue on the back of a cherub — not exactly the classic Raphael picture of fluffy little winged babies. Scripture consistently depicts angels as powerful warriors, sometimes terrifying and enormous (see Isaiah 6:1-4, Ezekiel 1:11-13, and Revelation 7:1). When the hosts of heaven appeared to the shepherds the night Jesus was born, they probably didn’t look like an ephemeral floating choir. Can you imagine? The sky...

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The Both-ness of the Holidays

The Both-ness of the Holidays

I’ve got these red jar-style drinking glasses in my cupboard. I found them scattered on a dusty shelf in a chain store in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. They’re cheaply made, and the red flakes off if they’re anything but gently hand washed, but we love using them for holiday dinners. The harder clean-up is worth it to my family. I’m coming to realize that the holidays may be sweet as we move forward, but they may never be easy again. I wrote these words to a friend this week, the same friend whose family sat with us around our table in the tropics, pretending that the roast chicken was turkey and laughing as my youngest held her red glass high in ridiculous toasts to everything. The same friend who spent part of her Christmas break two years ago carefully...

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The Same Ache

The Same Ache

I was halfway through sweeping up the crumbled edges of leaves carried in by my kids’ feet when it hit me that gratitude can feel a lot like sadness. These are grateful days, with the light slanting golden and rust through changing trees and our hours full of the things that matter most. The grace of it presses and aches in my chest the way grief did before in the unexpected leaving of home and community and ministry. And I remember again the abundance in letting go. The winding weight of those long months carved a canyon to welcome this rush of beauty now. Somewhere along the way the bitter ache bled slowly into the sweet, and I couldn’t tell you where one ended and the other began. Grief and gratitude aren’t separate. They’re one continuum, one story. They both...

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When Your Healing Story Turns Out to Be an Epic

When Your Healing Story Turns Out to Be an Epic

The leaves are stubbornly green. The calendar says October, but the weary heat is still spread thick, like someone forgot to pack up summer and put it away. It’s exhausting to wait while a season hangs on long after it was supposed to change. October holds echoes of a lot of loss for my family. Most years hope sings over the echoes, coming in on cool autumn breeze while the trees glow a golden promise that all things are being made new. But this year the hot air is still, and the leaves are just curling brown on tired branches. It’s like the Carolinas have forgotten how to move forward in the wake of the hurricane’s trauma. Oh, beloved Carolinas, I understand. Trauma’s a funny thing. Sometimes it feels like the turning seasons have wiped most of it away, and then...

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When Grief Changes Clothes

When Grief Changes Clothes

A friend asked me the other day how I’m feeling this anniversary of my mom’s death. It will be seven years next week. How is it already seven years? How is it only seven years? My friend knows something you can only know by experience: that every year grief looks different than the year before. The first anniversary’s grief was still wrapped in breathless disbelief that it really did happen. The second was hollow and tired. The third didn’t hurt as badly, but the fourth was like being hit by a train. This year’s grief is like an echo of all the words that would have been spoken, the things my mom would have said if she had lived to see my girls growing up and to witness the courageous ways we’re choosing healing over bitterness. Grief has a large wardrobe, and it...

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Dust

Dust

My friend gave me the gift of dust. Layered years of it covered photo albums, scrapbooks, and drawings, and as I transferred them from deep shelves into moving boxes, the dust clung to my hands and shirt like tiny, sacred bits of her family’s story. There were pictures of my friend with her college sweetheart as baby faced newlyweds. And then there was her pregnant belly, and then little stairstep kids. There were pictures of her husband grinning, surrounded by family not long before his suicide. And then there were her kids circled around her like the petals of a quiet flower. There were pictures from the years so many friends came around and held them tight. And then there was the newer wedding album, snapshots of redemption, with smiles so wide their cheeks...

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