Monthly Archives: December 2013

A story of Christmas old and yet to come

A tale told by tree light and candle glow


Somewhere I came across the thought that life is a play and we come onto the stage not knowing what has gone before or who the other players are and we are left to improvise our way into the story. It does seem like that, doesn’t it?

Recently I began reading Becoming Myself. Stasi Eldredge writes, “As a woman, your mother is your most potent role model. How she felt, what she thought, and what she believed had a direct effect on you… including… how happy [you] can be…”

I’ve written before that Christmas in our house was full of happy – gifts, family, food, Mama baking, cleaning, shopping, card writing, decorating… all these wonderful things I learned. But there was also Mama crying which left me full of sad and empty too. And I learned Christmas came with tear stains. It was many years before I heard a little part of her story and gained understanding which did clear some of the mist of Christmas Past that swirled around the holiday, but I had long since learned tears and sadness. My emotions at Christmas became a hazard to me; carols and songs carried the threat of sobs hidden among the lyrics like sad, malevolent goblins just waiting to overwhelm me. Knowledge and prayer brought a slow healing from those learned emotions.

JoyA few days before Christmas I was busy baking cookies and Bing Crosby crooned “I’ll be home for Christmas” into my kitchen space. Like many other families, we have a number in ours who come for Christmas to this place of their birth, ‘only in their dreams’. And I thought of them as I slipped the pan into the oven. Then, as I waited on the oven timer, I was transported back into a dream I had a while ago.

Sometimes my dreams seem like full-length movies. There is no time or space in the world of dream and this one was beyond place as well as I dreamed of William. William, whose absence became presence in my life every Christmas season. William, an older brother who became known to me only in this dream I share now.

dreamy snow

Frail and weary, William was carried by his dear friend and comrade from the battles. William felt heart-sick, having failed to overcome in the war. His friend comforted him, offering love and strength but he could hardly receive. His friend had some understanding; he had carried battle worn small ones home before, home to the loving embrace of their Father. Each tiny spirit reacted differently to the journey and he was concerned for William, so small and listless. He pressed the tiny one closer as the journey ended and carried him into the Glory.

William felt the change but could not seem to turn to its embrace. And then he heard, “William, dear son, welcome home! I am so proud of you. Well done!” William blinked and looked timidly into Eternal Love. “But, I failed to be born. I failed my mission to live earth life. I failed… “

“Dear William, you did not fail Me. You were brave and fought valiantly in your battles. You lived nine months in your mother’s womb. She and your earth father and your brother and sister loved you as they could and you will never be forgotten. My dear little child… “, welcomed Eternal Love. And William smiled into the radiance of his heavenly Father. He snuggled, resting in Love, growing stronger; aware of Father giving instructions to his comrade. His dear angel friend gathered William into his arms and bore him off to the chambers prepared for him where he would grow.

William came from the Glory and returned there December 23, 1942

As the dream memory passed, I thought, Oh! “I’ll be Home for Christmas” is actually my song and William waits for me to come home for Christmas! And in that moment, my simple kitchen became a ‘thin place’ and it was as if I could see through the veil and a robust and glowing man leaned through the portal, grinning – “You’ve got it, Sis! There’s no place like HOME for Christmas!”


And the timer sounded and the ordinary was all around and I felt my smile and a few gentle tears too as I blew a kiss. I’ll be home for Christmas one day, William, and I know it will be far better than snow and mistletoe and holly!

This piece may not fit your theology or thoughts on dreams and visions and that’s ok. Even if it was only imagination, I believe the Lord Jesus has continued the healing process in my soul through it all and I am grateful.

The Lord used Pastor Jack Hayford’s I‘ll Hold You in Heaven – Healing and Hope for the Parent Who has Lost a Child through Miscarriage, Stillbirth, Abortion or Early Infant Death to do just that for my Mom. I offer this as a resource which could be a blessing to others like her who carry this pain of a lost child.

From Psalm 139 RSV – For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.(vs 13) Your eyes beheld my unformed substance, in your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. (vs16)

5th Day of Christmas

Christmas bloom

My mom grew one of these for many, many years. She always called it Christmas Cactus*. I took cuttings from her plant about 15 years ago. It is not the most beautiful plant – until it blooms each winter. It usually is a bit neglected and then I go into care mode and it rewards my feeble efforts with flower love.

* Schlumbergera truncata – I think!

Christmas Day

It was to be a quiet Christmas Day for two. We decided to splurge on the drive and spend time in the beauty of  Longwood Gardens. We were a bit surprised at the number of folks with the same plan. From the voices traveling around us, many were far from homes in other countries.

Longwood Tree

It has been a number of years since we visited and always there are cameras. This year it seemed that at least half our fellow travelers were using other kinds of devices.Longwood Conservatory

Progress into the conservatory was slow as so many groups and couples posed every few feet.

Longwood Conservatory

I had taken my camera so I was caught up in capturing everything I could see when I suddenly realized the camera was flashing its low battery signal.

Longwood Conservatory

And it came to me – my battery was low too and I needed to recharge: breathing fragrance, looking deeply into plants, enjoying the laughter, marveling at the gardeners work,

Longwood Conservatory       Longwood Conservatory

walking slowly, holding hands,   Longwood Conservatory  watching sunlight fade and lights glow from trees  Longwood Conservatory  sharing dinner, walking in cold, crisp air, recharging, rejoicing! Longwood Gardens

We had seen stars shining, nature singing! Singing the praises of their Lord and Creator this Christmas Day! Joyous Holidays to you!

Longwood Longwood Longwood Longwood

Longwood IMG_2161 Longwood Longwood conservatory

Advent Gift

Bowl of Christmas balls

When I was 9, I left my local parish school. That fall I entered the thick grey walls of a girls’ school, a long streetcar ride from home. The halls that threaded the school where normally filled with the muted trampings of rubber soles and the rustling of black habits and long rosary beads. Those first months I felt the walls had eyes and ears that peered into my soul, weighed me and found me lacking in grace and whatever other qualities where expected in a student there. And I shrank into my introverted shell.

Then came late November and a gift was dropped into my soul. All the elementary students gathered at the beginning of the day in a strange wide place filled with windows in an otherwise enclosed hallway. The windows stretched from steamy radiators almost to the high ceilings. I remember that Monday filling the space with grey early light. There was a surprise as the heavy scent of Christmas hung in the air as we pressed in to be close to the large wreath of fresh greens somehow suspended above us. As a candle was lit, those several hundred voices sang out, “O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel…” I don’t know if I understood the words but enclosed in the sound was mystery and comfort.

I’ve sung and heard this hymn sung every year since and when I hug it close and let myself return to that dark place, I hear the echo of those voices down through time and touch again the mystery and the comfort.

I believe that God Himself touched that lonely little girl with His presence and began a game of hide and seek with her.  It would take many years but again in real time He would touch my soul with the mystery, wonder, and comfort of His presence and I would know His name – Emmanuel – God with us – God with me.

Ann Voskamp is sharing about Advent wreaths, Jesse trees and keeping Advent. Ann has such insight and grace to touch mystery and wonder; you might enjoy a visit with her at the farm.