2017 Christmas Cards

20170916_182813 (2)I have to say it. I’m a strong opponent of premature Christmas decorations and celebrations. In fact, if I go into a grocery store or department store in October and seeing tinsel and lights and elves, I try to ignore them completely, since I feel like these things spoil the grandeur of the way the Christmas season ought to spring upon us, much-awaited, with the beginning of December.

That being the case, I long debated whether to make this post at all, but I ended up deciding that it might be worth it to some people. So if you’re like me and cringe when you see Christmas things out too soon, don’t worry – I’ll keep this short.

20170916_182413Ever since I opened my Etsy shop two years ago, I’ve dreamed about designing a set of watercolor and calligraphy Christmas cards. This year, I finally had an opportunity to make that dream a reality and I spent part of the summer working on these new paintings and calligraphy pieces. I then turned this original artwork into printed cards that can be used as traditional Christmas cards or framed to be gifted or displayed as unique works of art.

And these new cards are available in my Etsy shop NOW.

So many of my favorite things about Christmas are classic and old – like the rich and beautiful carols and poems celebrating the advent of Christ. My other favorite thing about Christmas is the spirit of generosity and grace that we celebrate and attempt to extend to others during the season. This Christmas, I wanted to make art that would express both of these things and for this reason, 50% of net proceeds from any Christmas card purchases from my Etsy shop will benefit the work of Compassion International, a humanitarian aid organization serving children in poverty around the globe.

20170916_181840 (2)Although it’s only the beginning of November, I wanted to let you know about this now so that you have plenty of time to order them. Please note that these cards can be ordered in any combination you like! There is a listing in the shop for a set of three, and also individual listings. However, if you find you really like two of the designs and don’t care much for the third, you can order as many of these two cards as you like. If you send a custom order request, I can create a listing for you that will include your entire purchase in one listing and will cut down on your shipping costs. I usually respond to convos very promptly and you shouldn’t have to wait long for me to create the listing for you.

Alright, friends, that’s all. You can return to your normal routine and wait for Christmas to come at its proper time.

On That Always Aching Wound

OH MY GOSH, I want him to stay little!” a little girl wails in a viral video that has been making its rounds this week. Sadie has just learned that her baby brother is going to grow up, and it’s too much to take in tranquility. The look of stunned injury on her face has garnered over 21 million views on youtube, and certainly some laughter, but I expect I’m not the only one who feels something else too: a sort of cold, sick loneliness, anyone? The unutterable tragedy that just when everything is exquisitely right, everything is emphatically wrong.

It’s not even funny,” said my sister. “Except that you have to laugh, or you’re going to cry.

Because somehow this hysterical sorrow isn’t ridiculous, isn’t misplaced. Somehow it’s just exactly what the situation calls for.

And I don’t want to die when I’m a hundre-e-e-e-e-e-ed,” Sadie sobs. It’s that kind of grief that can’t be fixed or forgotten. On the other side of it, something has been shattered forever.

Or has it?

In Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis has something to say about this, something that reads almost as if it was written for this exact drama – simply because this exact drama plays out in everyone, troubles all of us:

Fish Out of Water

Hence our hope finally to emerge, if not altogether from time (that might not suit our humanity) at any rate from the tyranny, the unilinear poverty, of time, to ride it not to be ridden by it, and so to cure that always aching wound which mere succession and mutability inflict on us, almost equally when we are happy and when we are unhappy. For we are so little reconciled with time that we are even astonished at it. “How he’s grown!” we exclaim, “How time flies!” as though the universal form of our experience were again and again a novelty. It is as strange as if a fish were repeatedly surprised at the wetness of water. And that would be strange indeed; unless of course the fish were destined to become, one day, a land animal.

In the bitterest book of the sixty-six, there’s this:

He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their hearts.

So if I could say a few words to Sadie, I would say, Little Girl, never grow out of your deep discontentment. “Wrestle with the Not Yetness of things. With the good, broken, incompleteness of everything.

As my friend Sam also says, It is what it is. But it is not what it shall be.

The Stag Who Lived Forever

stag-who-wanted-to-live-forever-zach-franzenI’m so happy today to be able to share a little fairytale with all of you. Sam Smith of Story Warren graciously invited me to write something for children, and the result has been posted over at the Story Warren website this morning, complete with illustrations by Zach Franzen. Story Warren is such a beautiful site about truth and tales and yearning and child-likeness, so I hope you’ll take a minute to check it out, and share it with the children you love. And perhaps come back again and again and again.

My Song Is Love Unknown

War Kid - littleThere is this thing about children. The way they taught me half the things I know about God.

They come into the world with red faces and crinkly foreheads, stubborn as weather and as changeable. We know when we take them home and settle them into safe places that they will keep us wakeful and jeopardize our peace for many turnings of the world. We keep doing it, though.

From the start, they are like the gamin, like the fleet-footed, autonomous, defensive little toughs in the tough parts of the world. There is this sense in which every baby is a Dallas Winston with winsome, unapproachable eyes and a practiced carelessness and a code of shameless opportunism and a disgusting swagger. They can do everything all by themselves. Even plunked right into the middle of all our encircling provision, they are grasping and greedy and violent.

There is this sense in which every baby is hardened like a street tough before his feet are steady enough to take him careening through alleys, before the cruel world has touched so much as the fuzzy curls on his head. He is his own man, and he looks out for himself. You can hear it in his wild, demanding shrieks – when he wakes and is hungry – and feel it in the determination of his tight-clenched fists – when you move to take something from him that he thinks he ought to have.

We love them, though. Oh, how we love them!

Sometimes we tame them and humble them and constrain them and clear a way before them for the truth to come through like dayspring. We do this when we can. It is one of the world’s greatest joys. Like that of the inloveness that a man shares with a woman. Or like the harvesting of the fruit of many years’ work and of calloused hands.

But sometimes we come upon children who are untamed and still fierce and self-reliant and deceitful, and we love them no less. There is just this thing about children. By now the baby is older and shrewder and more capable and no longer kept prisoner by our blankets and cradles and the weakness of his legs. He begins to venture further and to find trouble for himself, as the sparks fly upward.

We know about trouble, about the sparks. We know what is at the end of all of the roads. We want to shield him, to make him strong for what is to come. We want to tell him what has been and what will be. We want to wrap our arms around all the beauty of his being and impart grace to him. There are no words for the love we have for him. It is overpowering. It is like the ocean or the hurricane of stars raging over us. We do not work for it. We just have it.

But his ways are so furtive and his eyes so distrustful – and he lies to us. Does he know how we read his darting eyes like a book, watch him frame his piteous deceptions, all the while willing him to throw off that sad mask, all the while knowing he won’t?  And do we love him less for his lies, for his crooked heart, for his confounded egotism?

No, we don’t, of course.  Sometimes, in fact, we love him more. There is a heartbreak, a grief, a sweet, strong sympathy that injects itself into our love for him and makes it a thing of urgency, a great epic. We don’t love children because they deserve it.

That is the thing about children. We love them just because. We love them first. We hope they will love us back someday; but if they don’t, we will go on loving them all the same.

That is the thing about me.

That is the thing about the way that my Dearest Friend has loved me.

It came before everything, before I even came here at all. It was first. And I did nothing to deserve it. Like this:

“My song is love unknown,
My Savior’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.”

That is the thing about love, the reason it is a sad, half-grasping affair on this planet: love is not an embracing of the darkness. It can’t be. It is an embracing – indeed, a nurturing – of the light that may come to be. Children have taught us this, also.

The roughest, wildest of them – the ones that frighten us with their impetuosity and with their boundless foolishness – when we love them, we see the brave, noble thing they may – but may not – become. We feel almost indebted to this possible future of theirs. And while they are unlovely and tough and heartless as only children can be, our love for them is all the time entangled with a vision of their perfection. It is the reason for the ache, for the bitterness of love.

George MacDonald, perhaps, says it best,

Love loves unto purity. Love has ever in view the absolute loveliness of that which it beholds. Where loveliness is incomplete, and love cannot love its fill of loving, it spends itself to make more lovely, that it may love more; it strives for perfection, even that itself may be perfected–not in itself, but in the object. As it was love that first created humanity, so even human love, in proportion to its divinity, will go on creating the beautiful for its own outpouring…Therefore all that is not beautiful in the beloved, all that comes between and is not of love’s kind, must be destroyed. And our God is a consuming fire.

I think a lot about the things that I want for the myriad of children that I love; the things I want them to do and to be and to know. It is hard to stand by and let them choose destruction and darkness and dead ends. I don’t do it if I can help it. But we can none of us be keepers of the souls of others. They do not have to listen to us. They do not have to accept the light that we pass to them reverently and with pleading. Sometimes this weighs on me, and makes love a most unbearable thing.

Then sometimes it is brought home to me that I do also run about on occasion like the wild and endangered urchins of the world, throwing back all of the gifts and the promises and disobeying flagrantly the most reasonable and beneficial orders that come to me from the hand of the Giver. How about you? Is He looking on with that unquenchable grief that our children give us?

This, I am coming to learn, is what is meant by ‘God the Father.’

All The World’s A Stage

All The World's A Stage“Calvin says somewhere that each of us is an actor on a stage and God is the audience. That metaphor has always interested me, because it makes us artists of our behavior, and the reaction of God to us might be thought to be aesthetic rather than morally judgmental in the ordinary sense. (…) I do like Calvin’s image, though, because it suggests how God might actually enjoy us. I believe we think about that far too little. It would be a way to understanding essential things, since presumably the world exists for God’s enjoyment, not in any simple sense, of course, but as you enjoy the being of a child even when he is in every way a thorn in your heart.” (Marilynne Robinson, Gilead)