Tuesday, December 11, 2012

In the Dark Streets Shineth


These stanzas from an unknown poet, circa 15th century, have been a comfort to me the last couple weeks.

Lo, in the silent night
A child to God is born
And all is brought again
That ere was lost or lorn.

Could but thy soul, O man, 

Become a silent night!
God would be born in thee
And set all things aright.

If we can silent our souls, part with the clutter inside, and stand wanting, open....

If we can let God be born in us...

All things, all people - whatever it is we've lost - will be found. All things will be set right. Such a comforting thought. One I keep pausing over.

When something tragic happens to someone you love so much, your small world grinds to a halt. It's unsettling in a way, that the bigger world doesn't. Everything else keeps tumbling along despite the gaping hole inside you. You do the regular things because you must, but the extras fall by the wayside. So I didn't write. Couldn't. And it's taken some time to find the right tenor to come back. Advent, however, makes it easier. For He is the great balm of Gilead, the Redeemer, the Light Phillips Brooks wrote of when he scribbled these words in a shepherd's field below Bethlehem.

Oh little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by

Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting light

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight

I love this early 19th century work of art by Benjamin West. It's my new favorite Nativity piece.


In the darkened streets of this tiny town, an Everlasting Light split the night. His light, bursting with potential and promise, would be the fulfillment of God's great plan. 

It is this Savior-to-be we are celebrating, rushing around for, spending our days for.

And over the weekend, I had to stop myself. When the house looked like this and I was so full of angst and frustration at the total chaos, the lack of control I really have, and I wondered how it is I can spend my days so foolishly. 


Worried about the lights being just right? The toys picked up? Doug putting dirty utensils on the wrong kitchen counter? Am I, remembering what Michelle said last week? 

"The world will be unkind to every one of us; home should be a haven of acceptance and love." 

Yes, home should be different. It should never hurt. It should accept, nurture, enfold.

So I am still trying to go gently, still starting over when I've stumbled into too many hard words, when I've let all the little annoyances make me crazy. I have so much to learn. 


But we've begun the joyful traditions, the stockings on the mantle, the baking of treats. The tree is finally bowed with ornaments and Christmas music is playing.

We're nearly halfway through our Advent Tree pockets. 


You can find the list of daily advent readings I compiled here. I write the reference on a yellow star, the kids pick it out of the pocket (along with a small toy or goodie), we read as a family, then that child gets to perform a service and leave their star as a token of their love.


And we started a new tradition. Our friends, Jarrod and Emilie, gave as this beautiful, carefully-built manger. Wood as smooth as satin with joints perfectly-fitted. Jarrod made it himself. A treasure for our family. 


Along with the manger came a bag of straw. 

When someone in the family does an anonymous act of service they quietly come to the bag, grab a pinch of straw, and lay it in the manger. Slowly, act by act, we are making a soft bed for baby Jesus to come to on Christmas Eve.


This is a sentimental tradition for me. My Mother made a manger for us when we were small. She used a doll cradle and we filled it with snippets of yellow yarn. Thank you Em and Jarrod. We love you.


We picked up our gingerbread house from our neighbor, Kristie - baker extraordinaire. She sells her houses every Christmas and I can't decide which scent I love more. Fresh pine or fresh gingerbread. 


In past years I've tried to keep the kids away, but this year I'm letting go. It's much more fun to eat. And really, what mother can keep five kids from snitching on this?


Last night we decorated the tree. 


I taught Eliza the art of weaving lights in and out from the trunk. A method passed on from my Grandma Dorothy, to my Dad. And my Dad taught me.


Our tree isn't fancy. But every ornament has special meaning. Each comes from a place we've been, symbolizes a person or memory.


And my favorite ornaments, which always have a prominent place, are the ones the kids made themselves.

Now, just in case you think we're too serious around here, I took a few of these photos last night.


Look carefully at that pile-up. Those are twin boy bodies beneath Doug. And twin girl bodies above. Everyone loves it when Daddy plays monster.


Chaos and laughter made for late bedtime, but a happy family.

And since I hadn't done the wash, the boys had no pajamas last night. So they had to wear their sisters'.


Cute little fellas. We had a good chuckle.

Happy Christmas season everyone. Whatever dark streets are in your way, whatever precious part of you has been lost or forsaken, I hope you can feel and see His light.


  1. Oh Cath, this is beautiful. I love you. I especially love that first verse, and Oh Little Town of Bethlehem is my favorite. Oh, and I love the picture of your Christmas chaos. I love how all that clutter of getting out all of the decorations somehow melts into Christmas magic.

  2. I loved this post! You hit the nail on the head for me as yesterday was too chaotic for me...thanks for your perspective!

  3. I needed this more than you will know today. My heart is heavy for my dear friend whose sister tragically passed in a car accident at 16 years of age this past weekend. At the same time I am working to keep my head afloat in the early stages of a pregnancy with three other girls under five. The last line hit home for me, thank you.

  4. When i saw those stocking...so many...hanging from the mantle---well, my heart just swelled with the miracle of it all. just how good He really is. how sweet our lives are. xox

  5. Saydi - Oh Little Town is my favorite too. I love the light imagery and language. And I have to learn over again, every year, how to let the magic rise above the mess. Let go and let my kids do. You're masterful at that. I love you.

    Gretchen - we got your beautiful christmas card. Thank you! Your children are so sweet. Nice to know you have a chaos threshold as well. ;)

    Unknown - My heart is pulled to you and toward your friend who lost her sister. Death, when it comes to the young, robs us of time. And that void is so huge, so hard to accept. Prayers for her and you as you negotiate these difficult months in your own family. Bringing life, carrying life, making possible a new life is no small thing. And these years with young children are exhausting. Thinking of you and feeling so grateful for your comment.

    Cristie - that picture made me thankful too. He IS good and kind and so much of life is sweet. Looking forward to seeing you next week. xo

  6. So lovely, Cath. I appreciate your beautiful words and the reminder of what the season means. And I felt the same as Cristie at the picture of the stockings...and also thought that the reason you get to hang all of those stockings is the same reason your living room looks the way it did in that picture. The yin and yang of it all is hard to manage sometimes, but it truly can be opposition in all things. It's such a blessed thing Christ's birth and atonement and death bring those opposites together to form a perfect whole.

  7. Beautiful thoughts, beautiful images...even the living room, even the wrestling....or maybe especially those. Thinking of you and your dear friend.

  8. Cath, SO beautiful! Thank you for the light you share through your beautiful writing. Love, Shawni

  9. Kerri - So perfectly said. "the reason you get to hang all of those stockings is the same reason your living room looks the way it did in that picture." You are absolutely right. Thank you for reminding me so gently of the yin and yang, the constant opposition in life. And your final thought about Christ bringing those opposites into a perfect whole was revelation for me. Thank you, thank you.

    Sarah - Sweet friend, thank you.

    Shawni - you are kind to visit here. You must know by now how beautifully you inspire so many mothers. I adore you and your amazing family. Christmas blessings. xo


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