Saturday, December 26, 2015


My soul magnifies the Lord,
                  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Luke 1:46

Well, the floor has been swept up one more time, reaching deep under the couches and cushions for lost tags or misplaced gifts (or perhaps those purposefully left behind).  The fridge has been sorted, a bit of the feasting chaos has been ordered to make room for the perishables in Jack and Mary Anne’s fridge after I took them to the airport early this morning for a week of Urbana. The fire is crackling and my theoretical hike through some canyon has been postponed because the wind is whistling through crispy cold air this morning.

Christmas was basically idyllic.  And after I typed it, I looked idyllic up, and it was the right word: pleasing or picturesque in natural simplicityAs usual a lot of folks gathered around the sweet rolls (one heart-shaped pan without pecans for Dre), jalepeño and bacon poppers for Cameron, bacon-wrapped dates for Nicole and a no-cheese but fake crab and leeks and mushroom quiche for Wali who hates cheese, a roasted corn and green chile quiche for Heather, and Charly and Marcus on their way to surf Mexico made a spinach and tomato quiche as well; bowlfuls of crunchy sesame granola from Jenny served with yogurt in beautiful hand thrown bowls from Alene; fruit ambrosia and croissants from momma and a fruit platter from Mary Anne. Adam brought cinnamon-flavored whiskey for the hot chocolate and we popped champagne to celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God-with-us.

It was Ehab from Palestine’s first Christmas. So while the rolls were baking I stitched together a stocking from two red and green placemats and filled it with socks and chocolates and a favorite book wrapped in newspaper. There were some pretty wonderful gifts under the tree: welded gifts from Alan: a door knocker, a towel rack, a key fob and even a framed metaphor; a carefully stitched and bejeweled Everette rocking unicorn from Nicole; water colors from Dre that speak more than the bright splashes of paint. And lots and lots of books and music. And coffee and cups. And good notes. But my favorite part came before the presents.

Dre did the pre-present reflection this year. She read Mary’s Magnificat out loud, and then with her extensive social work experience with teenage pregnancies she described Mary’s circumstances, her reality in a culture that stoned adulterers.

But it’s not about circumstances. It’s about perception. And the thing about magnifying…it doesn’t change what is viewed, but how it is viewed. It doesn’t make something bigger. It shows us what is already there, but may not be clearly seen. So we played Salad Bowl. Each person wrote down something on a scrap of paper that is more clearly seen now, a magnified moment of the year.

And the thing about Salad Bowl, a sort of complicated combination of Taboo and charades, is that no matter how obscure or poorly worded a phrase might be, is that eventually it guessed, again and again so that we don’t forget: Arrived at Blackfish, or New City, New Challenges, New Adventures. And it was pretty easy to guess whose was whose afterwards. But it was good to hear the tender stories, when God showed Himself to be more than the circumstances.

And yes, He has shown strength with His arm; and He has filled the hungry with good things,

And one of our curled up on top of cushions and pushed-around couches with popcorn movies on the living room wall at the end of a very full day was Inside Out. And life is not easy. And in the pain is goodness. And there is sadness in joy. And joy in sadness. And both are necessary for happiness. And sadness stops the body and gets you to reflect on what’s really happening. And Joy struggles with those blue pauses and rushes about with yellow balls here and there and everywhere.

But it’s okay to be hungry. Because Mary Anne’s Colombian Christmas soup ajiaco with plops of sour cream and sprinkles of cilantro and chunks of avocado served in black clay bowls tastes so much better after a rousing game of volleyball in a blustery park. As does smoked salmon with slices of tomato and cucumber. And panettone sprinkled with powdered sugar and spread with Nutella for Manuel from Naples.

And as each of us asks questions about pain and life and the hand of a loving God, I have no clearly articulated answers. I can’t really do a google-search for an acceptable comfort. I will never forget when Charly first lived with us. And she rushed from her room on 9/11, weeping these very questions, shaking a figurative fist at the circumstances and the God who holds them.

It is not tidy like my living room.

 But it is well. Well with my soul. Because of the painful pauses I can see more clearly.

My soul magnifies the Lord.