Love of Advent-ure

4thadventimagesIf, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life.  (Anonymous, but quoted by Sarah Ban Breathnach in Simple Abundance)

What does it feel like to be loved?

The question is asked of my daughter who lives with her husband and three small children in a N African Islamic country. The lady who poses the question is heavy with her third child. Last December I joined my daughter to invite neighbours to attend a Ladies event to experience the flavour of a Canadian Christmas. In this country they do not celebrate December 25th, they do not get caught up in ribbons and bows, in getting the right turkey, the right gifts … they do that for other cultural events. As we spread the word about the party, one of the ladies said “everyone wants to be at her house.” It is a house of welcome, of lightIMG_0456 and love. This year, I could not be there and encouraged my daughter in whatever way I could, mainly prayer from wintery Canada. She is eight hours ahead, it was early Friday afternoon that the first details came through: “a house full of women, rich conversation, laughter, fun, food.” Via WhatsApp she said “And one pregnant woman who did not have the two dinars (about a dollar) for a taxi ride, walked seven kilometres to come.” I was moved to tears to read that. That woman walked seven kms because she felt loved and accepted by my daughter. My daughter does not preach, she invests herself into their lives … she cares, she also gives this woman a ride home.

What does it feel like to be loved? Three weeks ago, I heard a fable by Max Lucado. This is now my retelling of his telling … As the prince rode throughout the land, he took note of a peasant woman, he fell in love with her … he proposed marriage. She wanted to refuse … how could he love her, he lived in a castle, she was just a common woman. He insisted that He loved her for who she was, and he wanted to marry her. She still responded in doubt, but as he seemed quite persistant, she said,  she could cook and clean for him, and bear his children … He said, “I do not want you because you can cook and clean, and bear children. I want you to be my wife because I love you” …. They married; she cooked and cleaned and bore his children, but somehow she never trusted his love. In the end she left him, and said to one of her friends, “I never really felt that he loved me.”  

IMG_0419Something stirred my heart at this story as I have often wondered IF God, who says He is love, could love me? What does it feel like to be loved by the creator of the universe? I have learned that grief does not feel like love …. but the question hangs in the air. Do actions speak louder than words? I do believe that Christmas is Love in Action.

How will I spend the final advent hours? May I take time to feel the desert wind, to gaze at a star and to ponder the birth of new understanding. The final word is Immanuel, God with us, through each season of life, through the longing and the filling, in the journey through the desert. 

Why settle for tinsel, when we are offered the kingdom? 

DSC_0062

Jocelyn is the Author of Who is Talking out of My Head-Grief as an Out of Body Experience

Decemberings from North Africa

10858643_920087051336803_3751427569910810232_n

This is the land of the Nativity Card look alike, and I am closer to the bread and olive oil world that the baby Jesus entered, than when I hang stockings by the mantle in the winter wonderland of the Rocky Mountains. But there is little evidence that the major holiday of the western world is upon us.

So why does it not feel like Christmas? And what is Christmas supposed to feel like?

Here in North Africa, near the edge of the Sahara, the mother part of me desires to recreate the atmosphere that my daughter grew up with, on the Canadian prairies, so I can give my IMG_0066grandkids a sense of what “Christmas is about.” So Ernest Saves Christmas-our family movie from 25 years ago and the Cabbage Patch Christmas album, even older, have journeyed with me to share in this sandy land. I have brought ornaments to glitter and glue, chocolate chips for the baking. I brought my own wrapping paper. A part of me wants to do the something old, something new, something borrowed from this culture and the something blue comes naturally post grief. Throw in my daughter hosting a  community Christmas party, and the age old dilemma of Christmas Martha (Stewart) versus Christmas Mary (who ponders everything in her heart) takes shape … and I fall into the trap of performing.

And is it something I need to do in order for Christmas to happen? Ann Voskamp’s words challenge me … to become a space for God.  Immanuel-God with us … in order for that to happen, I have to make room in my crowded life for that filling, that presence.

It is only three days till Christmas, and my 5 year old grandson asks if we could please, please open one of those presents that magically appeared under the tree last night. I have forgotten how hard it is for children to wait for the day to open gifts. I feel my own impatience with waiting for the gift of fulfillment.  And I ponder again the concept of becoming a place for God.  Making a space for beauty, life, and joy to enter. May it be so.

IMG_0550

Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas. – Peg Bracken

Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts. – Janice Maeditere

 

Doubts re-All Hearts Come Home for Christmas

by debbiedoos.comThe voices in my head argue this one out: The Magic of Christmas pitted against the: ‘this is not what I expected for Christmas’ … but I can accept either position at any given time, even at the same time.  What is the beauty of Christmas? And why have I traveled thousands of miles to be with my daughter and her family for this Advent season? There is a part of me that hungers for connection, for beauty, for the fulfillment of a longing I cannot exactly put my finger on. I know that the bonds of love are a huge part of the craving, being in the same air space with those I love, rekindling memories and crafting new ones. Every recent December, my own mother expresses a wish that she could experience ALL her family to come home at Christmas. And my heart does a split in two again, as I am reminded that two of my children will never come home for the Advent festivities on this planet. Death acts the grinch at Christmas.

And yet, in a desert land of North Africa where the “Joy to the World” is not sung, I watch my daughter intentionally celebrate the season, the reason, I am reminded of the hope and the peace spoken of as my grandchildren light the Advent candles. Around the kitchen table small fingers glue tissue paper to make a lantern light craft.  And a song played in my head, from when my children were crafters at my kitchen table, One small child in a land of a thousand, one small dream of a Saviour tonight.(Sung by Evie) A knock from the back door lets us know the neighbour and her daughter arrived in the midst of glue and tissue, and speaking of light of the world … and then the flow goes Arabic, and I step back and keep glue on paper. The girl is invited to make a lantern and the head-scarved mother asks the reason for what they are doing. More Arabic, and messages about the light of the world are spoken, and a fourth tissue lantern goes to another home.   IMG_3196

One small child in a land of a thousand                                                                                                          One small dream of a people of light.                One small hand reaching out to the starlight

One small saviour of life

So each year as I think of hearts coming Home at Christmas, I try to focus on the meaning of where I am truly at home. I am a spiritual being, and my heart is at home within the embrace of my spiritual Father.        And my heart feels warmed by the light.