November 24, 2019
Dear Loved Ones,
Please accept the following album as a gift. My way of saying
that you have been thought of all year.
May I share with you how it came about?
In 2018 I had reserved a week-long retreat in at my in-law’s
cottage in September, as well as a few short getaways
throughout the year with a view to completing a small book
of poetry (known as a chap book). However, near last
November’s close, I still had nothing concrete to show for all
Usually, I would beat myself up for failing to meet a personal
goal like this. This time, I simply enjoyed God’s presence and
his creation and trusted that if he wanted any writing to
happen, it would, in his time. If not, that was okay, too.
Then, near the end of November last year, a difficult incident
happened at work involving a colleague from another agency
I had intentionally been trying to bless. The situation
blindsided me. I didn't recall ever before being the recipient
of someone’s ill will for no apparent reason in quite that way.
It helped me see a bit more clearly how incredible Christ’s
love for those who rejected him was. In God’s grace, while in
this state of pain and confusion, my supervisors were
incredibly supportive and even allowed me a few days off to
In the weeks preceding this I, along with my church, had been
spending time in the last half of the Gospel of John. I would
savor portions over and over on audio during the long
commute to my various work sites. God used that to prepare
me to respond to this trial in his strength, not mine. Instead
of causing me to descend into bitterness, the difficulty drew
me closer to Christ. Christ met me during this time and
overwhelmed me with peace, joy and love—even for my
And then the words started.
On a particularly good day of writing, I am fortunate if I can
complete a rough draft of one poem through concerted
effort. But during this time, lines of poetry were coming so
fast and furious there wasn’t time to jot them down. When I
talked to family, even my sentences were coming out in
rhymes! From Friday through Sunday, I was God-struck. I
hardly slept Saturday night, as I struggled to capture the
words which seemed to be pouring from above into my lap. I
began to dictate them into my phone’s Evernote app, for
transcription at another time. (Most of the italicized or
bracketed words found in the poems reflect what is heard on
the initial audio versions.) By December 1, 2018, I had on my
phone the beginnings of maybe one hundred poems. I doubt I
had written more poems in my entire lifetime before that.
The blessing of God’s presence that weekend was beyond my
comprehension. It was as if the sword-piercing my enemy had
meant for evil had merely hit Christ’s Rock and formed shards
of healing poems in me for his glory instead. I resolved I
would never again doubt God’s wisdom, love, power,
presence or timing. Truths that I knew only intellectually
were now ingrained on my soul. I had visited a “thin” space,
as the ancient mystics would say. A place where the gap
between my in-the-world self and God’s unseen kingdom
seemed small. I understood how Peter might have felt when
he had been fishing all night and caught nothing, then Jesus
told him to put his net down on the other side of the boat,
and Peter found his net full. All he could cry out was, “My
Lord and my God!”
It is fitting that this experience happened right before Advent.
Advent has always been a time I’ve sought to draw close to
God, either in joy, as when I first trusted Christ and all the
carols started to make sense some thirty years ago, and or in
sorrow, sensing the vanity of its usual trappings as the world
around rushes about. Older friends may remember poems
from past Christmas letters, written out of this sadness or
Recently, I have taken up the popular trend of choosing a
“Word of the Year”. For 2019 I chose “With”. I wanted to
remember God is always with me; I need never feel alone. I
also set two goals: (1) minimalize my house and, (2)
transcribe some of the poems I had received last November
and assemble them into a chap book for gifting.
It seemed everything conspired against completing these
two, modest goals. On the minimalism front, by April I had
cleared boxes upon boxes of unnecessary goods out of our
house, only to have our (finished) basement flood. Boxes
piled up again everywhere as we awaited new basement
flooring. And then my mother-in-law fell, requiring surgery
and a stay in a rehab facility. Our air conditioner died. Our
dryer died. Our roof developed a leak. Our basement flooded
a second time. Then in August Mum fell again, while in rehab,
this time forcing us to acknowledge she would no longer be
able to live in her home nearby. All of September we were
preparing Mum’s house to go on the market. What couldn’t
be sold or stored elsewhere ended up in our recently purged
and refloored basement. So much for minimalizing!
Things went no smoother on the chap book front. Though
they were still refreshing times for my soul, as with the year
before, none of the times I had set aside for writing brought
me tangibly closer to my goal. Despite having taught others
the ins and outs of Shutterfly photo albums, and despite
being proficient in PowerPoint and Word, a simple Amazon
self-publish effort seemed somehow beyond me. (Part of the
challenge was I wanted to include a photo backdrop of a
snow angel I had made at the local Abbey labyrinth on each
page). Then my relatively new laptop died, right before the
August family vacation. Things were so busy my computer
had to be outsourced for repair. When we got back, Geek
Squad had indeed gotten my computer to turn on, but it took
another month before my computer-savvy but time-poor
husband could get my software up and running so I could
access my files.
Everywhere I looked, more important issues needed tending.
I knew if God wanted this project done, he could do it, so
rested in the thought there must be some reason for the
delay. Perhaps God was building my perseverance. Perhaps
he was working on my pride. Perhaps he wanted to use the
poems some other way. Or perhaps, I wasn’t supposed to
share them after all. But despite the year’s chaos, and my lack
of apparent progress on my goals, my word of the year held
true. I knew God was still with me.
Finally, last weekend-- again, when I least expected it-- God
answered my prayer. This time in a less dramatic, but no less
sweet, way. The location was, of all places, Newark Airport.
Yes, the airport currently ranked last in the nation, according
report cited in the sermon I had heard just that morning.
Terminal 35, between around noon and 5 pm. Truly a
delightful slice of time with nothing to do but wait for my
return flight following a weekend visiting Alden. (It is his
senior year and I was determined to hear his a cappella group
live before he graduated.) Usually I might swipe through
photos of my trip during a lag like that. Instead, I noticed that
the airline had recommended taking screen shots of one’s
boarding pass email to ease in retrieval when boarding. Along
these lines, it occurred to me that if I took screen shots of the
poems I had previously formatted in Word, I might still be
able to make a demo similar enough to what I had envisioned
in my mind but had not been able to execute with my current
knowledge of Kindle, despite not having brought a laptop—
and in time for gifting this year. Eureka!
I have not yet received the hard copy of the demo I ordered
off my phone at the airport last weekend. However, in the
spirit of simplicity and contentment with what is which
formed the foundation for these poems, I have decided to
send the link to the resultant album as is, in hopes a poem or
two might breathe life to you as you walk through this often
frenetic season, much like they did me when I received them.
For God longs to be “With” you. During Christmastime and
always. Of that, I am sure.
P. S. Updates will surely be made once I receive the demo and
can read the text more easily. Process not perfection!
Thanking God for friends on the creative journey.
(Note: the chapbook has the photos of the snow angels, but the poems in blogspot do not.)
(If you are receiving this book in paper form, that is evidence
its editing ha