Packing up Christmas and Choosing Life. Again.

Is this pathetic, or what?photo-70

I think the day I take down our Christmas tree is the saddest day of my year.  I may have mentioned once.  Or fifty bazillion times to my family.

photo-4I don’t want to pack up the glow of starlight and holy mystery, the delight of twinkle lights and tingly anticipation of bright wrapping and all the lovely things.

There is no better story than this long-awaited birth.  I don’t want to stop thinking about ordinary but devoted Mary pondering “plan B”, or Joseph responding to the holy interruption that turned his world upside-down.  I love imagining the crazy-plain and teenaged shepherds wearing eau de crap, on hillsides invited the event of the millennium.  I don’t want to stop celebrating Jesus’ arrival in a humble place like Bethlehem.

Putting things away is such a mark of endings, while Jesus is the celebration of new beginnings that I love.  It seems like a death when my One Word is LIFE. (You can still join Awakeners opting in and post your One Word here if you want!)

So when our tree is dead and the boughs are browning and the world is encased in ice like a corpse, how do we continue to choose life?

A friend sent me this quote:

“The true meaning of Christmas is found in the sharing of one’s graces in a world in which it is so easy to become cold, insensitive and hard.  Once this spirit becomes part of life, every day is Christmas and every night is freighted with the dawning of fresh and perhaps holy adventure.” H Thurmond

Choosing life means we choose grace.  We return again and again to the manger where Life and Light arrived on Christmas, not because we earned it but because it showed up when we least expected it and didn’t deserve it.  We accept the gift and share it with others.

When I think of this Christmas choice I think of a mentor named Coke.  She and her pastor husband were much maligned and criticized by a bitter old man in the church where we served many years ago, but one of the images I store of her in my memory is when I walked into a concert being held in the church basement.  There was Coke, sitting next to her “enemy”, leaning in and listening to him with love and attention in her eyes.  She was extending grace, and celebrating Christmas in that everyday moment.

Right now, what is one significant relationship in your life?  Hard or easy.  A spouse or a friend. A mother-in-law or a fiancé.  Got someone in mind?

What would it look like to extend grace to them and celebrate Christmas again today?  Offering an apology from the deepest part of you?  A word of affirmation, encouragement or forgiveness?  A secret act of service?  A listening ear?

“Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you?” 2 Cor. 13:5


The Simpsons, the Cleavers, the Holidays, and the Bible

John likes to say he grew up in the Simpson family and I grew up in the Cleaver family.  For those of you born before this century that’s the Leave-it-to-Beaver-all-american-solve-the-oh-so-dramatic-problem-of-someone-telling-a-white-lie-in-30-minutes-and-live-happily-ever-after-TV-family-of-the-1960’s.DSC00619

I share that only because we’re coming up on Thanksgiving and Christmas and every holiday that involves families gathering together.

Some of us have dreams that look like this:


But reality can often look like this:


And as wonderful as my family is, and as much as I’d like to think they’re perfect, I’m resigned to face the truth that there is no such thing as a fully functional family.  We live in a broken world and we’re a broken people – dysfunctional in some way, every one of us.

Continue reading


Fall in Minnesota is like Mardi Gras.

Actually I don’t know that for sure because I’ve never been to Mardi Gras, but Fall is a huge event.  A blazing last hurrah before THE DEPRIVATION of light and color and warmth for a long, long, time.  Sounds like Mardi Gras to me.

When we left Minneapolis two weeks ago for Africa, the firey autumnal luster was fading but leaves were valiantly clinging to branches, reluctant to give up the fight and die for the long, long, long frozen season of dark.


Spoiler alert: they failed in their efforts.


Now, we return to the black crooked limbs silhouetted against a gray November sky.  The leaves have lost the battle and lay cold on the ground. Twinkle lights try to replace the glow of harvest color and there’s a tug-o-war going on between those who want to start the Christmas carols now and those who don’t want to leap over Thanksgiving straight to the 24 hour holiday sales of the day after. Continue reading

The Chorus of a Bleak January

I’ve been doing something weird lately.

It’s January and I think most of us are feeling a bit schizophrenic.  Relieved to get back to the predictable routine of catching the bus to work, and grocery shopping, hair cuts and t.v. shows and recycling.

But there’s also the let down of ordinariness and a bleak winter (for those of us in Minnesota at least) stretching out interminably and we’re thinking it would be kind of nice if there was one more gift to unwrap that was forgotten in the rush.


So I’ve been listening to Christmas music.  In January.  I’ve left my Pandora Classic Christmas music station on, and it’s been like with all the noise of other Christmassy stuff muted til next November, God’s voice has a chance with me.

Continue reading

2013 and Packing up Christmas

Dear Friends,  Happy New Year!

As we start into 2013 I want to thank you, many of you who have stumbled across this blog or had someone forward it to you and you kept coming back over this first full year of “Awake My Soul”.  Thank you to those of you who have commented, or FB messaged or texted or emailed me sharing your thoughts or how God may have used a particular post.  We’re all in this together, and although our individual stories are unique, the grand themes of God’s story in our lives are what we hold in common – hope, fear, brokenness, redemption…

My goal is to get better in 2013…to post what is more God-honoring, compelling, encouraging, smile-bringing to you so that you look forward three times a week to stopping by, or opening your email if you subscribe.

If you have suggestions or feedback I’d love to hear from you.  Other than that, I don’t want to sound too Holy-shmoly but I’m truly aware of my dependence on God for writing material.  Today, since many of you are newer, I’m going to repost a favorite from last year titled Packing up Christmas.  

Blessings,                                                                                                                         Laura

Daughters Katy and Maggie have gone back to D.C.                                                                      It finally snowed here in Minnesota (righting a cosmic wrong).                                          And I ‘m sitting by the fire in our kitchen at dusk with a cup of hot chocolate as I write this.  Maggie insists I call it hot chocolate instead of cocoa.  No idea why.

The Christmas decorations are packed away til next year.  Ornaments made with chubby hands and glue of love.  Unusual baubles brought from far flung places.  Decorations marking special times.


As I pack up Christmas I feel so conflicted…

I love and hate this time of year.                                                                                                      I hate it that it’s the end of my favorite season.  The end of twinkle lights and anticipation, shining stars and awe-struck shepherds.  Putting things away is such a mark of endings, while Jesus is the celebration of new beginnings that I love.

Jesus.  Every-day grace and fresh starts.  Every day.  Not just at Christmas and not just at New Years.

Continue reading

One More Gift…or Two

At our house the carols have been sung, candles lighted, cookies eaten, snuggling done by the fireplace.  The tree has been given multiple compliments so that it feels secure in its loveliness, and bags of festive crumpled wrapping paper and shiny bows carted out to the trash.

Yes, the gifts have been opened and oohed and aahed over, but there are a few more…A couple I didn’t get delivered to friends and tennis coaches, and Christmas cards still to mail.  Maggie’s fiance, Austin arrives today and his gifts are still waiting under the Christmas tree.

All this gifting focus has prompted me to think about several other gifts that are there every day, but may sit around un-given or unopened in the new year.

Continue reading


I’m really am a Christmas girl.  I love it all.  Well, almost all.  The snow and twinkle lights and candles and cookie-baking.

But Christmas also means more people.  Family and guests visiting, more traffic in parking lots, more people at parties.  And I’m an extrovert, so that’s ok except that when people are extra busy they’re stressed and not the best version of themselves so it’s easy to get squashed in the crush of “me” and “my” and “this is what I want”.

Basically we’re all a pretty opinionated and selfish lot.

Continue reading

Pregnant, part 2

This week I’m thinking about Mary and three spiritual practices that may help us prepare for Christmas.  You can read the first in the series here if you want.


As I write this I’m in a lovely setting, looking out over our snowy Minnesota – an outward picture of peace and calm that is definitely not what I’m feeling inside.  In my fingers and toes and stomach is… fear – that indefinable tingly, insufficient, I can’t get it done emotion.  I need to do, to create, to produce and I don’t have it in me.  I’m not enough.

Is that feeling more common at Christmas than at other times of the year?

Continue reading

Hungry for More Than Christmas Cookies

Today I was supposed to go to Weight Watchers.  Instead I made Christmas cookies.

And by that I mean I made Jeans Bars, so named because they’re guaranteed to make your jeans tight.  Yeah.  I know, I know…


But, it got me to thinking about the food I need far more than Christmas cookies.

And the God who has given to all of us who are hungry and thirsty for that “more”…

Continue reading

An Advent Sunday Morning

As I write this it is the first Sunday morning of Advent.  It’s foggy and ugly outside my Starbucks window, but I live in Minnesota so I know snow is right around the corner which makes me so happy.

I’m an early morning person, but I know many are just now lumbering, hustling, shivering, or springing out of bed.  Some to get kids dressed and combed.  Some, bumping around a dark empty house or apartment alone.  Getting ready for worship.

Some will be driving to church with an attitude of habitual going-through-the-motions resignation.

But for me…and for most I think, there is always a glimmer of expectation.  As small as a twinkle light, but it’s there for sure.  A tiny bit of hope that we’ll meet God in that worship space and hear a whisper from Him.

Continue reading