Sunday, 30 December 2012

Christmas

It's hard to sum up the spirit of a season in a few short sentences or capture the magic of a miracle in words.

Christmas this year was busy and exhausting and joyful and wonderful.

There was exuberance and calm, extravagance and magic, and through it all, a small boy who soaked up the season like a sponge and then radiated its glory to everyone he met.  

Tonight, as I sit and and look back over the photos I took and the memories I made, I feel nothing but gratitude. Gratitude for family, gratitude for a season of celebration, gratitude for a small boy to share it with, and gratitude for the awesome opportunity to open up a miracle for him and shower him with that special sort of magic that only comes at Christmas.

  

 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Oh Christmas Tree!

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Lessons Learnt from Decorating the Tree:

1. Erecting the tree is a serious business. Appropriate headgear must be worn.

2. Filling the bucket with gravel is man work. No interference necessary.

3. No matter how you try to market it, fairy lights will never be as interesting to a two-year-old as a bucket full of gravel.

4. There must be some (rather heated) discussion over whether carols or cheesy Christmas tunes are the most appropriate music to accompany the tree decorating process.

5. Cheesy Christmas tunes will start to grate on the nerves at exactly the same moment that the (rather heated) discussion about the correct way to place the fairy lights begins.

6. It will take a matter of minutes for the bottom two branches of the tree to hold 80% of the decorations.

7. Re-distribution of decorations (and fairy lights) must be done stealthily to avoid upset.
8. When tree decorating gets dull it's a relief to have a bucket of gravel to fall back on.

9. If you own a single glass ornament, it is guaranteed to get dropped.
10. When tensions begin to mount, turn off the cheesy Christmas tunes and dim all the lights. Against all the odds, magic has been created.

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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Light in the Dark

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It seems to me that the world could use a bit more light just now. It could use a little magic, a little sparkle, a little hope to get us through the darkness.

And so we've twisted lights around the branches of the mulberry tree that grows outside our door. The lights shine in the darkness, and the world is a little brighter.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Advent Candle

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Every night, when his story's finished, I light John's advent candle and turn off the light.

For a moment, there is nothing but blackness as I snuggle back under the covers with my boy, and then a hush comes over the room as we see the angels circling on the ceiling.

Silently, nestled close together, we watch the spectacle unfold; the flickering flame, the twirling windmill, the tiny silver angels spinning through space and the shadows dancing about the walls.

"Let's put our hands together," I whisper, and John sits with his palms pressed tightly together, waiting for my prayer.

For a moment, I say nothing, unsure how to begin, and then thankfulness drops from my lips in a simple list of gratitude. The words are simple. The sentences are few. But it feels uncomplicated and true and real.

And even though I've never fully understood the hows and whys of prayer, in those quiet moments beside my boy something intangible is touched upon, and when we've both said "Amen" and I've opened up my eyes, I'm no longer sure whether the patterns circling on the ceiling are just shadows from the candle or the feathery tips of angel wings after all.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Advent

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Every day, John asks me: "It Christmas time now mummy?" and every day I tell him "No, it's not Christmas time yet, it's Advent. It's the time when we get ready for Christmas."  

And even though his little face falls and he sighs a little exaggerated sigh, I can't share his disappointment, because, for me, Advent is as important as Christmas time itself.

Advent seems to have become a forgotten season in a country that can't wait for Christmas, but really Advent is a period of preparation.

It's about waiting, and promise and an expectation of joy. It's about the simple magic of a candle flame and shivers of awe at the first chorus of carols.

It's about a dining table covered with glitter and a kitchen floor dotted with holly berries. It's about floury worktops and lists on the fridge and a sense of urgency that stays with you throughout.

It's about washing windows and polishing wood, and making cards and buying gifts. It's about bringing greenery in from the cold and planning magic in secret.

It's about cold churches that smell of pine by day, and glow from within by night and it's about thinking and praying and opening our spirits to the possibility of change.   

It's about making ready for a miracle. I can't imagine Christmas without it.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Little Donkey

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I thought he'd be a shy donkey or a reluctant donkey or no donkey at all. But instead he was a happy, confident donkey who ran crazily about the church in his floppy donkey hat, sat happily by himself whilst he awaited his turn in the play, stood smiling and holding my hand whilst I read his lines for him, and made everybody smile with his crazy donkey cuteness.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but as little donkeys go, this one was close to perfect.

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Thursday, 6 December 2012

Miracle

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He stands there in a sudden burst of sunshine and he has no idea. He has no idea that he's perfect. He has no idea that he's beautiful. He has no idea that he's the light of my life. He has no idea that he's a miracle.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A Winter Walk

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The sun shone, so I bundled us both in the car without a second thought for the cold and when we arrived the iciness of the sunshine startled us.

We ran across the board walk, the wind cutting through our coats and stinging in our ears, and only once we'd made it into the shelter of the trees did we slow our pace and notice the startling golden light that was pooling all about us.

We played pooh sticks on the tiny troll bridge, John climbed trees and clambered over stumps and I took photos of my boy and marvelled at the beauty of the clear winter's light that was captured on my camera.

And even though my toes ached and John's lips turned a little blue, but there was an uncomplicated joy in his smiles and a freedom to his run.

"I really happy now Mummy," said John, cuddling up to my leg for an instant as I walked and smiling up at me with big, honest eyes.

"Me too," I told him, ruffling his hair before he ran off again into the woods.  "Me too."

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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Contentment

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"Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed" - Mary Oliver

Contentment is a funny thing to chase. It glimmers like sunlight amongst leaves and scatters when we least expect it. It dances across our eyelids, making us sigh and lift our faces to the sky, then it disappears quite suddenly behind a cloud and the more we try to seek it, the less it can be found.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about contentment, and the way it's lost and found.

All summer long I stared steadily at the things that I had no power to change, and felt discontent settle on my soul. I longed for joyfulness in the present and yet my mind was too mixed up in the future to truly see the goodness all around me.

And so, in an attempt to grasp happiness and clutch contentment, I spent September recording three beautiful things each day, just as I did in Lent.

Sometimes it was a struggle. Sometimes it was a chore. Sometimes I had to sit quietly with my eyes closed to pick out the beauty amongst all the busyness. But most days, when I sat to review my day, a flood of good things sprung into my heart and I had to squeeze my mind and force my hand to limit my list to three.

Since September, I've not recorded three beautiful things each day, but instead something unexpected has happened. I've stopped dwelling on the future or seeking happiness in a desperate sort of way. I've stopped tormenting myself with the things that I can't change and the decisions I can't yet make, and I've found a quiet peace in the present. The days pass in an easy roll. Beauty flashes in and out of focus before my eyes and sunlight dapples my days with random blessings, just as it ought.

It's a fragile and precious gift, this contentment, and so I hold it lightly, gently, unsure how I've happened across it and unsure how long it will last, but knowing that I must savour its sweetness for every second that it stays and understanding with a humble heart, that I need only stand where I am to be blessed.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Sparkling


It's hard to find words after a long stretch of silence. It's difficult to write about one beautiful moment when so many have passed by unrecorded.

Life lately has passed in a series of showers and sparks, and for weeks I've found neither the time nor the words to record them.

But suddenly, I feel the need to write, and instead of summing up or looking back or expressing deep thoughts about the past few months, I'll begin by simply sharing one little moment that sparkled amongst the blackness.

I'll tell you about the little bonfire that we lit in our garden and the serious concentration with which John gazed into its fiery heart. I'll tell you of the warm cranberry punch that we sipped whilst watching the flames dancing with the dark and the little enamel cup that sat alongside ours on the damp wooden bench.

I'll tell of the fiery magic of a sparkler and the way we hovered anxiously over our boy whilst he made bright trails in the night.

I'll write of the excitement that came of getting all wrapped up after dinner and running out into the blackness, the squeals of joy that sounded in the dark as John chose a firework from the box, the breathlessness with which he ran into my arms as James lit the taper and the wide wonder in his eyes as sparks shot up into the night.

And I'll promise you that this moment, which sparkled so visibly on a cold November night was just one of many sparkling moments that passed by unrecorded but left invisible fiery trails burned forever onto my soul.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Holding On


I'm holding on to these last blissful days of summer.
I'm holding on to the feeling of sun on my skin.
I'm holding on to light and freedom and the simple joy of outside. 
I'm holding on to laughter and nakedness and endless possibilities for play.
I'm holding on to summer.
I'm holding on to all the goodness of life.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Perfect Day, Perfect Company


I was disappointed when I realised that James would be back at work on my birthday. I was disappointed when I learnt that my mum was busy and I was disappointed when I remembered that all my friends were at work and that I'd be spending the day with my thoughts.  

And even though John whispered "appy bu-ay" sweetly to me over breakfast, and my mum rang to sing me a happy birthday chorus, my mind was still heavy when I awoke and I still managed to start the day in tears.

And it wasn't until we arrived at an unexplored woodland and began making our way through the trees, that I realised that I'd been gifted the most beautiful day imaginable and blessed with the best company that I could hope for on my birthday.

I followed John as he made his way off the beaten path and explored the winding track that ran beside the water's edge, and I lingered when he stopped to fish in the stream, put stones in his pockets, climb trees and collect sticks.

We chattered and sang as we wandered amongst the trees, and as we walked I felt my thoughts unwinding in the warm air, until my mind felt as free and light as the leaves that danced overhead.

Hazy bursts of sunshine filtered through the canopy, making shadows shiver across the bracken, the sound of the river sang to us as walked, and everywhere we looked there was magic.

There were bearded tree trunks and tiny villages of mushrooms, hollow trees where owls perched by night and tiny waterfalls trickling through the rocks, white horses glimpsed between distant trees and gnarled trunks that grew straight out of the rocks.  

I'm not sure how long the two of us were lost in those woods.

I know that we stopped by the waters edge for a picnic, I know that when our little path hit a cliff we had to retrace our steps through the undergrowth, and I know that when we finally re-emerged from the trees the sunshine had blanketed the world in warmth and my day had been transformed from a shadowy stretch of hours into a truly beautiful birthday.