Advent Continues

We have traveled many kilometers in the last week, changing “homes,” time zones, and garbage disposal instructions.

We have been able to light our advent candles most nights, trying to explain our unconventional advent rituals to the various people we are sharing them with.  The term advent “wreath” doesn’t quite apply: last year we had an advent raft due to the overflow of bugs in the greenery we tried to build our wreath with.  This year we have an advent tray, so we aren’t leaving bits of the wreath all over as we move with it.

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We are appreciating our advent calendar so much.  I’ve spoken a few times about how having others grieve with us mysteriously eases the burden for us.  When Elizabeth put together the calendar, she spoke of how hard it was for her emotionally.  Working on it, and receiving (e)mail kept our loss in front of her in a more constant way than it had been.  She said that she realized that this was what our days are like.  Her willingness to prepare this despite the immediacy of the grief has allowed us to look forward with anticipation to some unknown good surprise each day.  Some ways of carrying this grief with us are tangible.

As we open our notes and gifts, most days your words, kindness, and creativity have brought tears to our eyes.  It has been another illustration to us of the way that we think and grieve differently.  For me, the hard part was thinking about it and preparing for it.  Once we were moving towards a good solution, I was content.  I was prepared to participate and enjoy it.  For Mike it was different, he wasn’t spending much time thinking ahead about it.  As we opened our packages on the first Sunday of advent, Mike collapsed into tears.  He said two very true things:

She should be here with us, opening her books.

And very shortly after that, “We have such good friends.

 

 

Your kindness, generosity, and thoughtfulness continue to give us the courage not to shrink from things that are hard – to celebrate what we had, to acknowledge what we are missing, and to remember and recognize what is good about our life.

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My bad. (sorrynotreallysorry)

In my defense, I didn’t really realize what I was asking of you.

I was talking with a friend the other day, and she was trying to get an idea of what kind of gifts we might like for the advent calendar.  She is a thoughtful, articulate person, so I was confused, and told her, “no, no, we just want you to use some words, you don’t need to do anything that extravagant!”

I know that there are people who just like to give gifts, so I expected that a few people would want to send us something, but I was surprised at the number of people who did.  I thought I had asked a simple thing – that wouldn’t require any cost, or even much time.  No work beyond a few minutes thinking (less if you have foot-in-mouth syndrome like me) and a quick email.  Simple.  Nearly effortless.

But as I talked with my friend, I remembered how hard words are.

Last year, my friend’s baby died.  I did what I knew to support and love her (and talked with her about how she thought we could help), which mostly meant taking Beatrix and going to spend time with her most days.  But then I was leaving the country for nearly 2 months, and I felt like I was abandoning her in her time of need.  So I decided to make her a “calendar” of sorts, with something from me each day we were gone.  Some days it was presents (here are some minutes for your phone; today is market day, buy cheese on me this week; etc.).  Those days were easy.  I also asked some of our mutual friends to write her notes for some days, and those days were easy for me, too.  Most days I wrote notes, and those were so much harder.  Anything I tried to write that would actually be encouraging and loving, felt so trite, and I thought I had no right to say those things to her.  But anything I wrote that didn’t seem to speak to her grieving situation felt shallow and pointless.  It made me feel so vulnerable, and afraid – because I desperately wanted to encourage and love her – but it was only by doing it that I could know if it would actually be any good.

Had I remembered that, I never would have dared to ask you to contribute to our Advent.

(I’m glad I forgot, because it looks like you have responded to the occasion magnificently.)  Our friend Elizabeth put in a lot of time and emotional work into organizing it, and we are so thankful to her for doing it.

It is set up to be more practical than pretty, because we will be travelling this month – I want to show you, but it doesn’t look that impressive:

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But I did sneak a picture, without peeking, while Elizabeth was doing the final organizing, and I think that is a much better visual:P1060387

 

Thank you for your courage.  Thank you for taking this thing I was dreading it and making it something I am really excited about and looking forward to.

Winter is coming.

And so is He.

 

 

A Reminder, a Mystery Solved, and a Gift

First – if you wanted to email something for our advent calendar but forgot (or wanted to do it later after you thought about it), our friend is going to try to put it together over the weekend, so please send the email soon.  (The address again is tallonadvent@gmail.com.)

Second: There is a trail here on the island that I’ve been walking a lot.  There are some benches at the top where I have been sitting and reading.  Here is one reason why I like it:

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Here is another:

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(You might not be able to tell, but that dark spot is a humpback whale)

Another reason is the walk through the trees.  There are a lot of a certain kind of tree along the trail.  I’ve been trying to figure out what they are – since the trail is called “Oak Bluffs,” I thought they might be oaks, but as far as I could tell, there were no acorns, so that’s out.  Many of them look really strange – the bark has mostly peeled off, and they look half-dead.

 

 

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Last weekend Mike and I went to the Pender Island Yule Faire – it was a really fun market with some really amazing stuff, most of it produced by artists on the island.

Before we went, I was looking at some of the things that were going to be for sale, and I particularly loved these necklaces:

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They are made with turquoise and wood from Arbutus trees.  I had never heard of these trees before, but we spoke with the creator and found out that they only grow within a few kilometers of the coast, and that they experienced a blight here on the island a few years ago, but are coming back.  These are the trees I’ve been looking at and wondering about!

Which leads me to the third thing: I wanted one of these for myself, and there was a really good deal for two – my bargain-loving heart couldn’t resist.  The second one is for one of you.

If you like it, or know someone who might (Christmas is coming!), enter by following the Rafflecopter link below and entering your email or signing in with Facebook.  The contest is closed Tuesday, Nov. 28 at midnight (Pacific Time).  I’ll announce the winner on Wednesday morning, and will mail or deliver the pendant to the winner.

The winner is: Karen T.  Thanks for playing, everyone.

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more Beautiful, True, and Funny

Hi guys.  I want to keep sharing these things – partly because this is part of the process I am going through, thinking and learning, and partly because I think that these things have the ability to encourage and inspire others, too.

hidden life of trees

Reading this book filled me with wonder.  Some of the things he talks about, you can see by just looking out the window if you have a tree or two in view.  Reading a couple chapters and then going for a walk in the woods… wow.  I love trees to start with, but this has changed my whole experience of being outside.  Some of the mechanisms trees have for regulating growth and communicating with each other are beyond anything I had previously imagined.  (Mike and I have been discussing how Tolkien showed some keen insight with his creation of Ents.)

We all need more awe and wonder in our lives.

 

 

 

beauty will saveIf you’ve been reading my previous posts at all, you know why I was drawn to this book.  And it was in the discount section!  It wasn’t exactly the book I thought it might be – but it still spoke so deeply to my heart.  (This was the book I quoted from in the last post.)  I’ll let the book describe itself.  “In today’s world we have technology, convenience, security, and a measure of prosperity, but where is the beauty?  The full message of the beauty of the gospel has been replaced by our desires to satisfy our material needs, to empirically prove our faith, and to establish political power in our world.”

 

 

Let me make a confession:  I LOVE mom-blogs.  I have for a long time, long before Beatrix was born. (I mean, after she was born, its not like I had time to read them!)  (Although they have even helped me in practical ways in the past.)

This blog has made Mike and I laugh so many times.  I am amazed at her ability to convey so much emotion with simple drawings.  It is also a motherhood survival skill to be able to take things that are difficult and laugh at them – she has it, and reading her blogs helped me develop it.

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And this sock commercial!  It made me cry.  Not because they are doing business AND helping the homeless (although that’s great), but because they had a great idea, and then they did it.  The guy saw something that bothered him, and that made him think.  He came up with a way he could help – they imagined and researched to develop something good, and then they actually did it.

 

One more thing:  Did you go watch all the Walk off the Earth videos yet? No?  Here’s another favourite.

Blessed are those who mourn…

I know this doesn’t sound like a thank-you from the title, but bear with me.

I’m going to start with a quote from “Beauty Will Save the World” by Brian Zahnd,

“Sorrow is a necessary consequence of loving others and being fully engaged with humanity.  It is through the work of grief that we carve depth into our souls and create space to be filled with comfort from another.  In this way, grief is understood, not as a reality to be denied, but as a work to be attended to.  …Where… banal happiness seems to be the highest goal, we don’t want to attend to the work of grief, we put it off as an unpleasant task or something beneath our station,  But this has consequences…  In such a state the soul can never know true comfort and joy; it can only be anesthetized with entertainment.  It is in the work of grief that space and depth are created – space and depth that can be filled…

“Jesus is making an important announcement to those who… have allowed themselves to be sculpted by pain and sorrow.  Jesus seems to be saying that those who have… engaged in the real work of grief… are the ones who will encounter deep comfort…

When human beings suffer tragedy and profound loss, there is a certain amount of grieving that is required.  But in the mystery of human inner-connectivity, the work of grieving does not have to be done alone.  When we choose to bear the burden of sorrow with others, it really does lighten the load for the suffering.” 

(emphasis mine)

I read this on the same day I went through cards again – cards from the funeral, and cards that we have received since. I sat in front of the fire and glued them into the blank books that Don put out at the funeral – that many of you wrote memories and encouragements in.

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You guys, this season is hard and awful and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.  And yet in the midst of our pain, at what feels like the end of joy, we have received such overwhelming comfort.

It reminds me of more of Jesus’ words: he promises that those who have left homes and families for his sake will receive them back many times over.  We have done this, and sometimes it has been a joy and often it has been a sacrifice, but…

Especially in our time of need, we have found that we have a greatly extended family who is looking out for us – providing us with homes (including our home for this month on Pender Island), transportation, food, and encouragement.

Comfort.

So thank you.  Your words (and your presence through them) have meant so much.  Your cash gifts have given us the freedom to make choices based on what we need at the moment without fear that it will cripple us tomorrow.

In the midst of our mourning, we are finding such incredible comfort.

Advent is coming

I’ve written before about our process of beginning to celebrate Advent.  Its become a family tradition that is fun and deeply meaningful.

For the last few years I’ve started planning Advent in summertime, trying to gather materials and presents to help us celebrate in December.  Last year we wrapped up 28 books for Beatrix, and she got to open one each day.  She was old enough to kind of get it.  She understood that each day, she got to open a package and then read a new book (some of which she was more interested in than others).  I worked hard to choose good books that we would all enjoy – with no library access, this was all we would have to read, and I think reading with small children is one of the most important things a parent can do.

 

It was a lot of fun, and I was really looking forward to doing it again this year.

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As I’ve started looking ahead at the months to come, trying to think about what to do for Advent and Christmas filled me with despair.  Any option I thought about just brought pain.  I couldn’t get excited about the idea of arranging 30 days of chocolate (or tea, or cheese, or whatever) for Mike and I… it seems so empty.

Yet, we can’t not celebrate.  Our rituals and traditions are about things that are true no matter what our circumstances.  Advent is about celebrating joy fulfilled – and at the same time, the recognition that our world is not right – and the longing and the hope that one day all will be well.

It seems to me that Advent is precisely what we need at this time in our lives.

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I thought about a few years ago, when Mike and I wrote notes to each other for each day of Advent.  This seemed like the best idea, but I am pretty sure neither of us is up for that kind of project.  Then I remembered that we are surrounded by wonderful and amazing people who have been wanting to do things to care for us.  One of the things we have appreciated so much over the last few months is the various emails, blog comments, and cards we have gotten from our friends.  It has been such an encouragement.

We would like to organize that a little bit, so that we each have at least one new message to read from one of you, for each day of Advent.  I have asked a friend to receive and organize them for us so that it can be a surprise.

It feels a little strange to be asking people to send us kind words – but please send us kind words!  It doesn’t have to be eloquent, or even your own words – we would be happy with poems, songs, scripture verses, comics, etc – whatever you think is meaningful, true, beautiful, and/or funny.

You can email your messages to: tallonadvent@gmail.com.   (If there is anyone who wants to mail a card or something else tangible for the “calendar”, please send me a message and I will give you our friend’s mailing address.)  Please have them to her before Nov 25 so that she has time to arrange everything before she delivers them to us.

In advance, thanks.

Beautiful, True, & Funny

There have been so many things over the last few weeks that I have wanted to share with one or another of my friends.  Things that are profound, things that have made me laugh; things that have inspired me.  So I thought I would use this venue to share some of these things with you all – and if they seem interesting to you, please check them out.

 

out of sortsI picked this book up at my new favourite store.  (Its called Wendel’s in Fort Langley.)  Its a book store where you can tell each book has been chosen by someone who loves books.  The story is about her faith journey – in church, away from church, and back again.  Woven throughout her theological and relational wrestles is her story of loss, of babies that she didn’t get to hold in her arms.  This book is funny and heartbreaking in turns.  She lives in Abbotsford, BC.  The way she describes her thoughts about living there put words to much of what I have been feeling as we have been in Chilliwack.

 

daring greatlyAgain, Wendel’s.  I’ll confess it caught my eye because it’s pretty.  But I picked it up because the title comes from one of my favourite quotes.  This book is about vulnerability and shame.  It is well-written and research based.  Go read it.

 

 

Side note: There is a section where she speaks about gratitude, that expresses something I have wanted to say, so I am just going to post a picture of it here:

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god at war

 

I’m not actually reading this one right now.  But I re-read it last year when baby Jonathan died and I was heartbroken.  Gregory Boyd’s theological teaching, particularly from this book, is one of the things that has helped me to face Beatrix’s death with honest grief, acceptance, and hope.

 

 

It’s not all books!  The next one comes with a disclaimer: these comics are crass, and are full of foul language.  (If this offends you, please skip to the next section.)  I read The Oatmeal’s comics long ago: He shows us how to use proper English grammar, he makes fun of his own laziness and things that frustrate him.  He is a keen observer of human nature, and able to make fun of both himself and our culture in ways that make me both laugh and consider.   I was not, however, expecting it to be a source of inspiration.  But in the years I haven’t been reading, he has made some life-changes, and so you can find my new favourite series here.

 

I you haven’t seen the video of 5 people playing a song on one guitar, please go watch this.  I don’t usually enjoy watching videos on the internet, but I watched this video over and over after I first saw it a few years ago.  I have found out – they have other songs!  And their videos are all amazing to watch.  (This can be a rabbithole, sorry.)  They creatively cover popular songs as well as making videos for their own music.  If you have lots of time, just go watch all their videos, but if not, this is one of my other favourite covers,   and I’ll recommend the videos for their original songs “Rule the World” and “Red Hands.”  Their music, videos and interviews leave me laughing and feeling inspired.

 

One more book.  In the midst of many important issues that no is not enoughseem to compete for attention, and so many loud voices full of prejudice and hate, reading this book felt like I could breathe again.  She is full of scathing criticism and relentless hope.  She explores the ways the important issues of our time are intertwined, the ways our culture has accepted ways of living that are good for no one, and looks at creative solutions for “winning the world we need.”