I am an Episcopal priest serving as Missioner for Congregational Vitality in the Diocese of Texas and a Benedictine Oblate of Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana. I'm also an eighth generation Texan. My daughter, The Homesick Texan, has moved back home to Texas. My son and his wife live in Bend, Oregon, with my two grandsons who call me Grandma Texas.
For more years than I can count, I’ve traveled to New Mexico for a winter stay. Every year is unique to where my heart is yearning to be—sometimes play, sometimes adventure, always quiet and beauty.
This year I am calling my transition year as I complete thirty years of serving as a priest and moving towards my next call as a priest, retired.
Since before Thanksgiving, I have been darting and lunging and traveling and my soul is tired. I find myself longing for the familiar.
My therapist had reminded me of how unsettled my life had been since the first time my home flooded Tax Day, 2016. Seven years of throwing away and packing and unpacking through two destroyed homes, one call ending and a new one beginning, and buying my first home. The pandemic added another layer of relocation through creating and recreating and reshaping work space. I’m weary from seven years of change.
Usually when I come to my winter away place in Taos, I am ready for the unexpected. This year I want to be in a settled place.
I find myself gazing and pondering rather than filling my phone with photos of the beautiful views that surround me. I want to fill my soul with the images instead.
Yesterday my traveling friend and I went out for the twisty way we love to explore. I was exhausted after four hours and was ready to return to the familiar of my casa.
It snowed yesterday, and today I am resting with the quiet of snow. A little reading. A little repairing. A little painting. A little silence. Ever prayer.
I am sitting in the Redmond airport waiting on my delayed flight to Denver in order to board a second flight home to Houston.
Is it Christmas travel without twists and turns and unexpected stops along the way?
Why are we surprised when we have a Christmas that doesn’t go as planned?
That first Christmas certainly did not unfold as scheduled.
Rather than having their baby safely at home, a distant ruler told Joseph and Mary they had to travel somewhere else. No exceptions granted for distance or pregnancy.
When Mary and Joseph arrived at their destination, their expected lodging was full up. They had to depend on the kindness of strangers.
Their first guests were not the ones they would have likely selected. No wonder Mary took to pondering after those shepherds left. It is a Christmas wonder that Mary was able to reframe the unexpected into treasures in her heart.
Then there were the Wise Ones. I’m pretty sure they had some pause about delivering fancy gifts to not exactly the person they imagined.
And somehow they were able to pivot and decide that a different way home than they’d planned was the better way home. Were they wise because they were flexible?
Perhaps one of the true meanings of Christmas is to expect surprises. Like Mary, to ponder the unexpected and find treasures in them. Like the wise ones, to know that flexibility in both the destination and departure will show true wisdom.
Last night I drove through snowfall with my Bend family to Sisters, Oregon where a house has been rented for Lisa’s Fortieth New Year’s Eve Birthday Bash.
But before the party begins at 5, I’ve had some thinking time. And it involves any of you that read this post.
In thanksgiving for each of you, in thanksgiving for gifts I’ve received beyond measure, I want to give to groups that are making God’s world better, one small and not so small act at a time.
That’s where you come in. If you text me or email me or even message me on this blog, I will make a money gift in thanks for you to a group that you think is making God’s world a better place one small and not so small act a time. Who I may give to in thanksgiving for you?
There is a deadline: 5 PM PST, December 31, 2022. Any requests received after that time will receive my prayers but not my money. Today at least.
Who may I give to in thanks for you? Who do you think is making a good difference in God’s world?
Waiting to hear. And praying with a thankful heart.
Early in my days of becoming an Episcopalian, I discovered the Twelve Days of Christmas. Christmas begins at sunset on December 24 and lasts until January 5, the Eve of the Feast of the Epiphany (that’s when the Wise Ones show up). Just to make liturgical time even crazier, the first Sunday after the Epiphany, a quick thirty years passes, and it’s the Baptism of our Lord. But that’s another blog.
Back to the Twelve Days of Christmas. Where we still are. As soon as I learned about the twelve days long Christmas, I was smitten.
Not hurrying to get my Christmas decorations up and being able to enjoy them wholeheartedly into January. Check.
Having twelve extra days to get Christmas cards sent and packages delivered. Check.
Wearing blue intentionally before Christmas to dress as a harbinger of hope. Check.
And not so much now, but in earlier days doing Christmas shopping after December 25 and being able to purchase more for less.
Twelve more days to feast on Christmas carols and have time to really sit with what the Word made Flesh might actually mean. Love coming down at Christmas.
Today, on the fifth day of Christmas, I am on a plane with a checked bag full of Christmas gifts for my Bend family. My daughter in law’s birthday is the fourth day of Christmas and there is a big celebration planned this weekend. I’m in!
But first looking back.
I was all set to celebrate Christmas Eve Eucharist at San Estaban, a church plant in Santa Fe just outside Plum Grove. It’s largely a community of immigrants from Mexico and always a joy to serve alongside the lay church planter, Will Llana. He provides the words, I provide the hands. They meet in a community center, and the worship had to be cancelled because the center needed to be used to keep folks warm in the midst of the bitter winter weather. Somehow, that seemed fraught with Christmas love. There was room in the inn.
My Christmas gig cancelled, I now had so many choices of worship. I settled on my “home” church, Holy Family, unvested, unsermoned, sitting in a pew.
It was lovely.
When we sang How a Rose E’er Blooming, I thought with joy about the unexpected flowers that had surprised me that afternoon.
The first day of Christmas got to be a pajama day with calls and texts from people I love and that love me. Dinner was celebrated with dear friends with conversation and laughter. Not in pajamas.
The second day of Christmas was yet another lolling day, celebrated with extra joy knowing the third day of Christmas would also be a day to loll. For the second day in a row, I spent most of the day on the couch, bundled up, reading yet another mystery, my fireplace adding extra warmth.
The fourth day of Christmas was a day of wrapping and unwrapping presents, lunch with a friend, and packing and preparing for travel.
And now it’s the fifth day and I’m sitting in a snow covered Denver airport. It’s a bit jarring leaving Houston with the air conditioner on in my car, with suitcases stuffed full of layers of winter clothes.
This is my last twelve days of Christmas as a full time working priest. I have remembered and remembered and remembered again all the years of Christmas busy-ness with a smile hangover on Christmas Day from a marathon of worship. Music and candles and incense and people that fill my heart.
But this is my transition year.
And I have seven more days to celebrate Christmas.