Friday, December 31, 2010

Goodbye, 2010....

Altar at Victoria Chapel, Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity

As the old year fades and the new one enters, the kids and I gathered this morning at Victoria Chapel for Holy Communion. Reading God's Word aloud, praying together for the needs of the world as well as those of people dear to us, hearing His Word preached, remembering Christ's sacrifice through His Presence in Holy Communion--all are excellent ways to bid 2010 farewell and welcome 2011.

I admit to being a bit glad to see 2010 leave. It's been a difficult year, filled with change: Elizabeth's graduation from high school and her moving onto the PLNU campus, Keith's work situation, my health, the boys' conflicts. But it's also been a year in which I have never seen God's work in our lives so clearly. His Hand has been profoundly open, and we thank Him for this year, for the growth in our faith and maturity, for His good blessings, for His perfect timing, and for His people who love and bless us so generously.

After Holy Communion today and while Jonathan had his guitar lesson with Father Acker, I finished another journal, just in time to begin a new one on the first day of the new year. This journal took two years (exactly) to fill as I write about once a week or so. But it's a lovely thing to complete the final page in a journal; it certainly brings a beautiful feeling of accomplishment and closure.

Today from I received this poem which seems to close 2010 well:

A Song for New Year's Eve
by William Cullen Bryant

Stay yet, my friends, a moment stay—
Stay till the good old year,
So long companion of our way,
Shakes hands, and leaves us here.
Oh stay, oh stay,
One little hour, and then away.

The year, whose hopes were high and strong,
Has now no hopes to wake;
Yet one hour more of jest and song
For his familiar sake.
Oh stay, oh stay,
One mirthful hour, and then away.

The kindly year, his liberal hands
Have lavished all his store.
And shall we turn from where he stands,
Because he gives no more?
Oh stay, oh stay,
One grateful hour, and then away.

Days brightly came and calmly went,
While yet he was our guest;
How cheerfully the week was spent!
How sweet the seventh day's rest!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One golden hour, and then away.

Dear friends were with us, some who sleep
Beneath the coffin-lid:
What pleasant memories we keep
Of all they said and did!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One tender hour, and then away.

Even while we sing, he smiles his last,
And leaves our sphere behind.
The good old year is with the past;
Oh be the new as kind!
Oh stay, oh stay,
One parting strain, and then away.
So as we wave a fond (or perhaps a not-so-fond) auf wiedersehen to this year, I pray a healthy, blessed, rich, and joyful 2011 for each of you. May God be at the center of this New Year, teaching us how to number our days for His honor and glory, from the first of January through the 31st of next December, by the power of Him who died and rose again, Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord. Amen.

Happy New Year!!!
(And, auf deutsch (in German): Prosit Neujahr!)

With warmest wishes for a blessed 2011 to you and yours,

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Taize Worship

Today I had a long chat with my dear, dear friend from high school and college who now lives in Australia. We always miss each other especially during the Holy Days as she and her two boys often spent Christmas and/or New Years with us. We have both had difficult years for very different reasons, and we spent an hour catching up today.

She shared with me about the church which she and her Aussie husband will be joining shortly: a Taize Church/Community that she has absolutely fallen in love we fall in love with Him over and over, each day of our earthly lives and then forever in heaven.

I found the first video on U-Tube while my friend sent me the second one. Enjoy and worship the One who first loved us!

In these Holy Days,

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wishing You a Joyous Christmastide!

I wish you a Merry Christmas, a Joyous First Day of Christmastide!!

For the last ten years, our family has celebrated Christmastide, the Twelve Day Festival of Christmas. We keep all the Christmas decorations up until Epiphany on January 6, and the Christmas music doesn't stop playing around our house until Twelfth Night, January 5.

I mean, who can jam all the fun and joy of Christmas into a single day? We need twelve days to totally relax, hang out as a family, do fun things together, and celebrate the birth of our Risen Lord!!

In light of celebrating Christmastide, I post for you the beautiful carol penned by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (whom we happen to be studying in our home school). "Christmas Bells" was composed during the American Civil War and questions whether God is truly present, given the great loss of life in wartime. The hope and joy of the closing of the carol makes my heart truly sing:

"Christmas Bells" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Wishing you a joyous First Day of Christmastide!

With a merry heart,

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Blessed and Merry Christmas!

Our Kitchen Table, Fourth Sunday of Advent

This week has been busy as we clean and prepare for Christmas, and we've been overwhelmed by the kindness of dear friends and family. One family, long-time friends, sent us a check for $200 last week!!! That gift enabled me to go Christmas shopping for the kids, buying them each a gift and a few stocking things, plus paying off an overdue bill. And Keith had money come into the office unexpectedly (a gift from his dad) which allowed us to catch up on several more bills.

And the kids have worked hard (E at her job at the Bible camp; the boys doing yardwork for family and for neighbors) to earn money to buy each other gifts; it's so wonderful to see their joy in purchasing gifts for one another!!! The vast majority of the gifts under the tree were purchased by them for one another and for Keith and me. They're so excited!!!

Yesterday we opened an envelope mailed by someone in our small town: inside was a second envelope labeled with the kids' names containing four $100 bills!!! The kids need clothes so badly--I finally bought T a pair of jeans this week so he'd have one pair without holes in the knees. E and J definitely want to use the money for clothing, especially since J really needs a winter jacket; all he has is a sweatshirt. And several of them need snowboots.

Father Acker of Alpine Anglican and his wife also bought me a replacement battery for my laptop--something I have really needed and couldn't afford!! And my lovely boss at Brave Writer sent me a much-needed and very generous Amazon gift card!!

And tonight one of our pastors from Lake Murray drove up the mountain to give us a "treasure box" full of frozen food, two jars filled with change from another family (at least $90, perhaps more), and a personal check for $200!!!

We are so blessed by God through His family of believers!!

And then my parents gave us a HUGE check that will allow us to pay off a great deal of our debt!!! We've been praying for a complete payoff of all our debt by the end of the year, and here is most of it!!!

Our Christmas Tree, 2010

So with our hearts overflowing with gratitude, we thank all our friends for praying for us and for blessing us with friendship, help, and love through Jesus Christ our Lord!

This year has not been easy, but God is good, all the time, and His people are amazing!!!

Wishing you all a blessed and very Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Trees

Our tree a few years ago as ours doesn't have anything under it...yet :)

In the pale light of these last days of Advent, with Christmastide drawing ever nearer, I post for you a poem by Robert Frost that landed in my overflowing inbox earlier this week. I pray you enjoy it, and that the beauty of this season dwells richly in your hearts as a reflection of His Spirit, Grace, and Love.

Christmas Trees
by Robert Frost
A Christmas Circular Letter

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn't thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I'd hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I'd hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to.
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,
I said, "There aren't enough to be worth while."

"I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over."

"You could look.
But don't expect I'm going to let you have them."
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded "Yes" to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer's moderation, "That would do."
I thought so too, but wasn't there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north.

He said, "A thousand."

"A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?"

He felt some need of softening that to me:
"A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars."

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn't know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn't lay one in a letter.
I can't help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.

Wishing you a blessed final week of Advent and a joyous Christmastide as we celebrate together the grace of Christ's holy birth....

With Adventide blessings,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wise Words

Although in my heart I adore classic literature, I have a few contemporary writers whom I really enjoy, from whom I learn a great deal about faith, about writing, about life. And Anne Lamott is definitely near, if not at, the top of this rather short list.

In the April 2010 issue of Sunset, Anne published a very wise article about how we spend our time. In this age of harried busyness, of our allowing Internet, texting, and Twitter to gobble our time, her words are true and extremely helpful, especially for writers.

So although I don't often post links to other articles here (or haven't done so lately), I really want to share her wise words with all of you, and I pray that I can apply them to my own writing life as well.

"Time Lost and Found" by Anne Lamott

Wishing you all a blessed and unhurried Advent Season,

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2010 Family Christmas Letter

Dearest Family and Friends,
The Barrett Family wishes you a holy Advent, a joyous Christmas, and a blessed New Year in our Lord Christ! May His Spirit, comfort, and abounding love fill your hearts and homes this season and always!

2010 has not been the easiest of years for our family. Like you, we have experienced highs and lows, but throughout it all, God's goodness has been very evident, and for His blessings we are very thankful indeed—especially for being able to live in this wonderful small town amongst winter-tinged mountains.

We celebrated the 11th birthday of our youngest, Benjamin, earlier this month with a day at Sea World, thanks to season passes from my parents. Benjamin is in 5th grade this year as we continue to school the boys at home. He is taking classes in California History, PE, and Lego Engineering at our co-op Class Days and is studying German for a second year. Benjamin is very artistic, and his antics around the house keep us constantly laughing—lately he has taken to imitating a Hobbit...all day, every day. He is quite the character.

In 8th grade this year, Jonathan turned 13 in June, and he continues to excel in his musical studies. He is in his third year of guitar lessons with the Free Teen Guitar Class of Alpine Anglican Church, and he started piano lessons again this fall with Teri Carpentier after two years of earlier study. Jonathan played guitar in the Pine Valley Days Parade in July and also performed at our town's Christmas play earlier this month. He is also taking courses in General Science, chess, and PE at Class Day, and he has joined his older brother in learning algebra from “Auntie Jo,” my dear friend from college, Johanna. He's also decided to study Japanese this year which he really enjoys. Jonathan is definitely our “cool kid.”

Timothy will be 16 in March and is in 10th grade. He continues to enjoy learning art techniques and is taking a class in Fine Arts as well as a double-period Biology Lab at Class Day in addition to studying German at home. Timothy and Jonathan have joined forces in creating their own yardwork business around Pine Valley, and they've enjoyed the added responsibility and income. Timothy has also become very much involved in our town's community garden, and he and Benjamin have spent many hours helping some older residents with gardening duties. It's been wonderful for all three of the boys to become more involved in the Pine Valley community.

Now 18 and in her first year of college at Point Loma Nazarene University, Elizabeth graduated from Heritage Christian School (our homeschool group) in June. We enjoyed throwing her a 1950s “Sock-Hop” graduation party to celebrate her accomplishment. Elizabeth is a literature major in my former department at PLNU. Living in the dorms during the week and coming home most weekends, she is thoroughly enjoying college life. (I think she misses Dash our dachshund more than us!) She loves her dorm-mates dearly, and her RA is really wonderful. Elizabeth is completing her first semester this month, studying German with my former professor, plus classes in Biology, Theater History, Tennis, and Writing. Elizabeth is hoping to get an on-campus job next semester after working most of this year at the Pine Valley Bible Conference Center.

I've been busy this year, as always. In addition to teaching the three boys at home, I'm teaching Intermediate and Advanced Writing courses to high school students at Class Day, plus teaching various online classes in research essays, grammar, poetry, story writing, and Shakespeare at In addition, I am helping to edit a new edition of the Book of Common Prayer revised by Father Acker at Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity where the kids and I continue to worship on Friday mornings and Holy Days. Keith and I have also joined the Scripture Reading Team at Lake Murray Community Church in La Mesa which we have attended for over 17 years. I still help out various churches and missionary organizations with proofreading and editing in addition to writing poetry and even a little fiction now and again. In August I also celebrated my 4th anniversary of blogging at MeditativeMeanderings.

Keith has been working very hard this year, attempting to make ends meet. He has been doing a lot of handyman work for many clients, but especially my parents this year as he helped to design and install an elevator in their Pacific Beach home as well as renovate their mountain cabin atop Mount Laguna. He continues to work in the office with his dad on some remodels and other projects as well as designing two small custom homes—doubling last year's workload. Keith is planning a new stained glass window, a peacock this time, and may have a stained glass commission coming in the spring from clients who have seen his two windows in the Ademas' home. Keith continues as Head Chef in our household, often drafting the kids into the kitchen as his Sous-Chefs.

Our family wishes you a joyous and healthy 2011 as we all go forth in the love and grace of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior! Come let us adore Him!

With love and prayers,
The Barrett Family
Keith, Susanne, Elizabeth, Timothy, Jonathan, Benjamin, and Dash, too!

Wishing you all blessed Holy Days,

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Christmas Poem

The High Calling has posted a call for Christmas Verse. I've written and re-written and re-re-written this poem, so I hope it works. Just today I chopped off the opening third of the poem, and I think it's more powerful as a result. Let me know what you think....

By the way, I'll be reading my poem "abiding" this Sunday at Lake Murray Community Church as part of the church-wide Christmas program. Wish me luck...and a clear, unhurried reading voice.

rocking history
I want the earth to halt--
to stop its dizzying rotation,
just for the essential moment

so that I can truly see,
can wholly grasp
the magnitude of this Gift we celebrate:

a squalling infant laid
into a rude feeding trough
by a young woman
(a girl really)

pale with her pain and exhaustion,
amongst sheep and cattle whose
stench rises warm and wet
into star-strewn night.

this moment seems a simple tableau,
a most common event,
as she rocks history into the world.

then the earth may regain its motion
as long as this image remains:
salvation searing slow and soul-deep.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

So this simple image, almost a cliche, rocked the world. It's so world-rocking.

Living in a God-rocked world with you,

Gratitude Is Never Late....

"Mount Laguna Sunset" taken by Keith Barrett, December 2010
...even if I am.

So as the bustle of Christmas preparations swirl around us, may we find those brief moments of quiet, the solace of silence, to gather our thoughts, to number our many blessings.

Thus I continue on the journey to One Thousand Gifts with the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience, sharing my thanks with you and my praise as an encouragement--to you and to myself, for I crave encouragement right now with Christmas upon us and prayers for the provision to pay late bills and purchase a small gift for each of the boys, plus a few things for their stockings. So I plan to read through many other thanks of the Gratitude Community so that my own heart, a wee bit discouraged right now, can be encouraged--given the courage I need--and that I may walk in confidence ("con" is Latin for "with; "fide" is Latin for "faith") so I pray to "walk with faith" through these last days of Advent, and I pray to "walk with faith" and with joy, for the True Gift is free to us, for "we were bought for a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20).

So this Third Week in Advent, I give thanks to our loving, faithful God for:

451. ...His grace and faithfulness, despite my fears and faithlessness

452. ...Indian-summer weather in December, warm with sunshine seeping deep into stiffened joints

453. ...the glory of His gorgeous sunsets, and my husband's photographic skill in capturing their inexpressible beauty

454. ...the absence of homeschooling for four weeks, a vacation very much needed, a time of rest entirely necessary to refuel for work in January

455. ...the blessings and help of family when our finances are so tight

456. ...the losing of ten pounds over the last six weeks or so--just 50 more to go, the gain a result of steroid medication

457. ...Keith's 20-pound weight loss, a side-effect of a special diet to heal infection

458. ...the joy of having Elizabeth home for three weeks starting Friday

459. ...the carols of Advent and Christmas which always warm heart and soul

460. ...the simple task of addressing Christmas letters, praying for each family as I write, dipping the shiny brass nib into evergreen-hued ink
May we be abrim with gratitude as we walk these final days of Advent in anticipation of the celebration of Christ's Incarnation, and as we also await His Second Coming in glorious majesty--far more glorious than we can ever imagine....

Wishing you and yours a blessed Adventide and Christmas,

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Third Sunday in Advent

Advent Wreath
Virtual Advent Wreaths by Dawn by Design
This day marks the Third Sunday in Advent, when the rose candle is lit. At Lake Murray, someone lit the third purple candle instead of the rose candle, and it took all my resolve to not sneak up to the front and light the correct candle during our "greeting time." (Okay, okay, so I obsess over Advent!)

But lighting the rose candle reminds us that joy is indeed is on its way. And when we're this deeply into Advent, I need the reminder of the joy that is indeed coming...and coming soon.

The Collect for the Third Sunday in Advent:
O LORD Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
After church today we met with the Scripture Reading Team, and Keith and I both practiced our passages that we'll be reading in January during the church services. My passage is Genesis 1--which is definitely a very long passage, and Keith's is Acts 16:25-34. Fortunately, I am reading mine on the day after the New Year when we have only one church service planned, so I only have to read it once; Keith will be reading a week later.

So as we celebrate this Third Week in Advent, we also remember these wise words of this Christian saint who suffered much for the Gospel of Christ:

"A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door to freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent."
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer
May we all seek His face during this Advent Season, recognizing that in Him is our only hope of real joy, of true peace.

Wishing you a blessed Third Week of Advent,

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holidays or Holy Days?

Benjamin decorating the tree

'Tis the season...of busyness.

And I have accomplished little.

The house is decorated, thanks to a creative daughter and three goofy boys whom she dragged off the X-Box to help her from time to time while I lay on the sofa, dizzily watching them flit about, feverish chills disrupting my attempts at rest.

I have purchased one gift for my mother. That's it.

I have so many needs pulling at my time. At least school is mostly over for the boys, and I have this week to write and copy our annual Christmas missive, to take our family photo, to purchase gifts, to start preparing the house for our annual Christmas Eve celebration with Keith's side of the family. We're only buying for our own kids this year, and a little something for my parents. With finances as they are, we're keeping the kids at $20-25 apiece, plus their stockings.

But my real need this Christmas is to attend church, either Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning, something we usually don't do because of family celebrations on both days. I want more than anything else (yes, even more than the Kindle the whole family is pitching in to get for me) to worship the King on His birthday, to sing carols with a large group of worshippers, to watch candles glimmer and celebrate this Holy Day the way He should be celebrated.

The other things--the gifts, the food, the gatherings--are nothing next to our need for Him. I pray that my focus, our family's focus, for the remainder of Advent and through the Twelve Days following Christmas will be upon the One Who came, the One Who is coming again.

And I pray for a Holy Advent--for myself, for those I love, for those I know, and for those I don't know. I pray for true "Holy Days"--days "set apart" for Him--to pray to, to sing to, to focus on, to meditate upon, to celebrate fully Him Who is Love.

As Christina Rossetti writes in her beautiful Christmas carol "Love Came Down at Christmas":
Love Came Down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
So, no, I have little accomplished in the way of Christmas preparations, yet I pray that as I do these tasks, He will be glimmering in my heart and mind, reminding me that these things, although enjoyable and fun, are not the heart of these Holydays.

He is.

"Love was born at Christmas"...

all thanks, praise, and glory be to God.

Wishing you and yours a holy Advent,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

After a Week of Thanks, Gratitude Continues

Our home fires burning....

It's been a crazy-busy week, so I have been rather scarce here. Monday was a grading day and a school day with hardly a chance to catch a breath, especially after being sick for the previous four days. Tuesday was B's birthday which we spent away from home, and today was another busy day of preparing for our co-op Class Day classes tomorrow.

But I missed posting my additions to the Gratitude Community on my path to One Thousand Gifts. So, a couple of days late, I add these thanks overflowing:

441. ...our youngest's 11th birthday was yesterday, a lovely day of celebration at Sea World with our family, my parents, a quick trip to the college to see our eldest so she could wish him "Happy Birthday" in person--our youngest is our hilarious one, the one who carries laughter constant in his pocket

442. ...for our middle son's piano as each morning wakes abrim with beautiful music and "Amazing Grace"

443. ...for the quiet reminder of the nativity set on our mantel, whispering what is truly important this season: the birth of a Saviour

444. ...for the days spent with our daughter during our long Thanksgiving break, and for her touch everywhere I look in this house decorated for the Holy Days of Advent and Christmas

445. ...for the thirty poems written this past month--some good, some not so good and for the flow of pen on paper, untangling words from mind into sonorous silence.

446. ...for the poets and writers I've "met" along the journey of writing these thirty poems and also at She Writes. I hope to continue learning from them all

447. ...for an almost-full journal, one that will be filled before this year closes in a few weeks

448. ...for Advent music, especially "O Come Emmanuel"

449. ...for the beautiful Advent calendar, sewn nine years ago by Keith's sister and her daughters, gracing our wall, each handsewn pocket stuffed with Word

450. ...for the grace in gathering my not-so-little chicks together each evening around lit Advent candles to read and pray His Word as we await His coming again

So as we try to keep the Holy Days under some sort of control, with candles flickering and music playing softly in the background, may we remember for WHOM we await this Advent season.

With thanks this Advent season,

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Second Sunday in Advent

Advent Wreath

My favorite Collect for the entire Church Year is the one prayed on The Second Sunday in Advent and for the week following. I use it for my e-mail signature during all of Advent, and many Anglican Churches use it year-round to remind the congregations of the importance of God's Word to all Christians:

From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer:
BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
I missed church today as I've been stuck at home since Thursday with a nasty cold/virus of some sort: fever, dizziness, sore throat, runny nose, etc. I've been downing zinc lozenges which keep me from going into a full-blown cold at least. Yesterday I had to miss our church's annual Christmas Tea which I was really looking forward to, especially since I was bringing our Rector's wife and our Beadle's wife from the Anglican Church I attend on Fridays. But they didn't want to attend without me--160 women are a lot of ladies to deal with when one doesn't know any of them. I was looking forward to the singing, the fellowship with many women who return each year even when they no longer attend our church, the lovely tea and delicious food, and the opportunity to welcome the season. But I was able to spend much more time with our daughter, home from college for the weekend, than if I had attended the tea, so that was a true blessing in staying home.

But we will light our own family Advent candles tonight--lighting the one from last week plus a fresh purple one for this week. We have been reading through Bible verses for Advent from an old (and seemingly unavailable) Advent page from Focus on the Family, plus the Vesper Prayers from Phyllis Tickle's The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Winter which contains a whole section on Advent.

And last Advent I spent some time copying some Advent quotations into my Quotation Journal, one of which I share with you today to mark and celebrate this Second Sunday in Advent:

"It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope."
--Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI
So may we all open our hearts and our minds to the beauty and truth of God's holy Word this Second Sunday in Advent...and always.

Wishing you a blessed Advent,

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday Evening Blog Post for November

Each month we post our best/favorite post of the previous month as part of the Saturday Evening Blog Post at

As my regular readers now, I embarked on a poetic journey in November, writing 30 poems in 30 days as part of the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge through The Writer's Digest website. I wrote lots of other items, too, but one poem received the greatest number of comments I have received in over four years of blogging. I also sahred it with my little writing group in our small town, and they liked it as well, one member stating that it's the best poem I have written since we started the group five years ago.

And it's this poem I have selected to share with you.

"Do You Remember": November PAD Poem for Day 8

Wishing you all a happy Saturday Evening,

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Noel Ghost

David Wheeler has challenged us to write a Noel Ghosts poem. I've pondered this challenge until today, the deadline for posting. I'm not extremely happy with this poem, especially compared to L.L. Barkat's beautiful trio of Noel Ghosts poems, especially the Ghost of Christmas Future she posted today--a lovely and complex sestina.

And my sincere apologies to those of you who are not poetry fans and who thought you might get a bit of a poetry break now that the Nov PAD Poetry Challenge is over....

stooping to love
a mere glimmer in the darkness
illumined by flickers of fading embers
in the dimly firelit room--

translucent, she steps tentatively
from the white lights of their fragrant evergreen,
a shade, a promise, a faerie, an angel of light--

silently she bridges each bedroom door,
brooding over each sleeping visage awash with dream,
bestowing upon each an angelic kiss of blessing,

each cheek no longer chubby with childhood
but thinned, lanky, with awkward teenage years,
with the promise of adulthood coming all-too-soon.

and she sighs, grieving just a little
for these once-babies, once-toddlers,
once comforted so sweetly in her faerie arms.

soundlessly closing the final door,
her hand glowing through the golden knob,
fading, she slips away...until the next Christmas Eve--

a motherly spirit, stooping to love
on this wintry night when, long ago,
Love was born infant, squalling into the night,
comforted in the arms of a poor, unwed mother.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

May your Advent and Christmas season be both merry and mystical, with the faerie brush of angel's wing and fragrance of Christmas Love glimmering along the edges....

Wishing you all a blessed Advent as we await Him who is Love,

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November PAD Poem #30

So this poem marks the end of the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge on the Writer's Digest website. I'll be working through December to whittle down and edit my poems to 10-20 pages in order to submit my chapbook in early January (January 5th, to be precise). The winner will be announced on Groundhog Day (February 2nd). I have not a hope of winning, but I appreciate the opportunity to wrestle with words and learn a lot about poem-ing and even more about myself during this crazy upside-down month of scribbling pages smothered in the blue ink of my beloved fountain pen.

Our Day 30 Prompt is to write a "lessons-learned" poem, and that's what I've done. I hope that you enjoy it! And I'm sure that those of you who aren't poetry fans will appreciate the lack of daily poetry on my least until April, which is National Poetry Month and the month of NaPoWriMo!

Words on Safari
My words, they stumble--
tripped by faint, fading images,
faulty and fragile rhyme,
the metrical patterns of Mother Goose.

Mixed and tumbling, they heap
together in an eroding mass,
weathered by the wind, rain, ice--
tunneling through my dessicated veins,
upending my vague sense of reality.

I cannot control these words.
I cannot shape them to my will
or carve them into sharp silhouette
or force them to submit to my vision.

All I can do is quietly live
among them in their native land,
watching them ravenously feed on their prey
while I jot weary observations
into this once-crisp journal,

hoping to learn a thing or two
in the messy, gory process.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

There. I am officially done with the drafting stage. Now it's time for revision, editing--cutting and culling and switching and unswitching. We shall see how it goes....

Setting down my blue pen to take up the red,

The Servant, Not the Source

I just have to share some wonderful and oh-so-convicting words from Ann Voskamp at her beautiful blog, A Holy Experience. One of the main speakers at Relevant 2010, an annual gathering of Christian women bloggers, and slated for speaking at Relevant 2011 (oh, how I wish finances allowed me to go!), Ann gently reminds us that blogging is about the Kingdom of God, not about us. It's all about Upside-Down Kingdom Blogging.

Her Blogger's Prayer is one I am printing and hanging at eye level above my desk.

Ann has been publishing letters between herself and her Relevant roommate, Holley Gerth about Kingdom Blogging and Writing the Word.

Here is The First Letter: How to Not Get Caught in the World Wide Web, written by Ann to Holley.

Here is Today's Letter on Serving with Words written by Holley to Ann.

So this day as I pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," I add this prayer, and I hope to pray it each day when I face this blank window on Blogger: "Lord, give me bread to feed the ones who read here, friends and friends-to-be."

As we are reminded in Holley's letter to Ann:
"I am the servant and not the source."

Thanks be to God that I am not the source, that He is, that He provides.

Only the servant,

Nov PAD Poem Day 29

I meant to post this poem last night, but I was simply too tired. Our challenge for Day 29 was to write a "next steps" poem, possibly a "list poem," but something about future plans. As I pondered the prompt, the ticking of my grandmother's Seth Thomas clock on the mantel insistently reminded me of passing time. So I made the clock the central image. And, yes--that's my grandmother's clock pictured above.

The Hour Chimes
My grandmoter's mantel clock
ticks the minutes, chimes the hours--
murmuring flickers of memory,
glimmerings of possibility:
eyes freezing with anger well-deserved,
lips stuttering truths
.....I don't want to hear,
nose wrinkling in disdain
.....over some forgotten faux-pas,
fingers reaching, wiping away
.....cascading tears he caused,
arms encircling, holding close the point of entrapment,
feet finally wandering home
.....after long months of absence.

The hour chimes, groaning thick with decades,
waking me from restless dreams, dreary sleep.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

It's far from a happy poem. I just imagined the Shepherd Girl print hanging on our wall, and a troubled relationship that seems to glare from her resentful eyes....

Only one poem is left for this challenge, then the editing begins!

Writing painstakingly this day,

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bushels o' Blessings

As the Thanksgiving holiday week winds down and we gather our feeble forces to return to the work of common days, exchanging the extraordinary for the ordinary and trying not to complain, we can still find bushels o' blessings hiding from us, revealed as we shine the Light into all-too-familiar corners of our busy lives.

So as I continue on my journey to and beyond One Thousand Gifts with the Gratitude Community at A Holy Experience, I discover the abundance of Thanksgiving does not end just because the holy day is past....

Thanking Him this day for:

426. ...Keith's beautiful and delicious pies, a gift he shares with my family and his each holiday. In fact, Keith may make his dad an apple pie tonight to celebrate his 77th birthday tomorrow

427. ...the grace of gathering with family and dear friends around an overcrowded Thanksgiving table

428. ...the joy of meeting new people at Thanksgiving this year, especially my brother's significant other, Ari, and her two young people

429. ...for chill days made warm and cozy with roaring fires and cuddly kids and dachshund

430. ...for finishing grading the last essay late last night for my Brave Writer MLA Research Essay Class

431. ...for having a break from work until early January

432. ...for having my daughter home for five days straight for the Thanksgiving holiday break

433. ...for the beginning of Advent: lighting the first candle, reading the Scriptures, praying the prayers, seeing the Light dispel the Darkness each evening as we gather together in anticipation

434. ...for the lovely Pumpkin Biscotti candle from my Secret Sister at Class Day which I very much enjoy burning on cold mornings during prayer

435. ...for a Hobbit-sy boy who brings joy and laughter into our house at the most suprising moments

436. ...for the return to work after the Thanksgiving holy days, and all the learning we do together as a family

437. ...for trees emptied of leaves by abrupt, brisk winds, leaving their branches bare

438. ...for a frosted lawn this morning that looked for a moment as if snow had descended overnight

439. ...for a cuddly boy who still fits snugly into my lap as we whisper about "feeling faith" versus "knowing faith"

440. ...for wise friends who know when to encourage, when to nudge, and when to give a swift kick. You know who you are....

I am thankful also for nearing the end of the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge, and I'm sure many of you are also thankful that I won't be posting a poem each day for a while...or at least not until NaPoWriMo in April....

Walking in grace this day,


Sunday, November 28, 2010

First Sunday of Advent

(Photo courtesy of Rollo Casiple, Pastor of La Vina Community Church in Miami)

A Repost from the Archives

Advent is definitely one of my favorite seasons, just behind Lent and Holy Week. I love the candles, the carols, and the sense of mystery as we gather together to read and pray by candlelight that grows brighter each week as another candle is lit. Aaaaahh, Advent!

The word “Advent” means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the four weeks before Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus in His First Advent, the Incarnation, and the anticipation of His return in His Second Advent, His Coming again to the earth. Thus, Advent celebrates the revelation of God in Christ whereby all people may be reconciled to God, a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate in the Second Coming.

Advent also symbolizes the spiritual journey of Christians as we affirm that Christ has come, that He is present in the world today, and that He will come again in power. It calls us to holy living that arises from a profound sense that we live “between the times” and are called to be faithful ambassadors of Christ’s gospel as His return is imminent.

Advent is richly symbolic. The light of the candles reminds us that Jesus is “the light of the world” and that we are also called to “walk in the light, as He is in the light.” The purple of the candles symbolizes the royalty of Christ, the Almighty who “made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” The rose candle reminds us that hope and peace are near, available only through God. The large white candle, the Christ candle, recalls Christ’s holiness, purity – He who was without sin who died for the sins of all. The greenery, symbolizing abundant life, surrounds a circular wreath – never ending, eternal life. The red of the holly berries reminds us of His blood to be shed on the cross for us.

Advent takes place over the four Sundays before Christmas: today, the first Sunday, we light the Prophecy Candle, which reminds us of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah. On the second Sunday we light the Bethlehem Candle, which shows us that Christ was born in the poorest of towns, in utter humiliation. We light the Shepherd Candle on the third Sunday, which recalls the shepherds watching their flocks by night when Christ was born, and also symbolizes Jesus Himself, the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep. On the fourth Sunday we light the Angel candle, which reminds us of the Heavenly Host, proclaiming the Good News in Bethlehem on that night long ago, and also that the angels rejoice when one sinner turns to the Lord. Finally, on Christmas we light the Christ Candle, which reminds us whose Light we are celebrating: the light of Him who rescued us from darkness and death and reconciled us to God Himself.

The primary focus of Advent is Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, as we wait together to celebrate His birth, death, and glorious resurrection.

As a family, we're using the devotional Christ in the Carols along with Advent Scriptures from Focus on the Family and some materials that Bill Huff gave us a couple of years ago when he taught our Sunday School class at Lake Murray before he reverted to the Catholic Church, bringing his wife Joan with him. I miss them both dearly, but I am so happy for their happiness in the Catholic Church. B lit our first Advent candle tonight and we read from Isaiah 40, the carol "Silent Night," and the Collect for the First Sunday in Advent:

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

***This Collect is to be repeated every day, after the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas Day.***
My favorite Advent devotional is Watching for the Light, and from it I have jotted down some wonderful quotations, including the one for this week:

"Advent is a time of waiting. Our whole life, however, is Advent -- that is, a time of waiting for the Ultimate."
--Dietrich Bonhoeffer
So enjoy your family or church celebrations of the Advent season. I'm so glad I started the Advent tradition when our kids were fairly small so that it has become an important part of their childhood memories.

A blessed Advent to you and yours!

Nov PAD Poem Day 28

As we near the finish line of the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge, I'm posting my response to the Day 28 Challenge: write a "what really happened" poem. I keep thinking of friends of ours who are going through a very rough time, and this prompt reminded me of their struggles. Again, it's very rough, but that's kind of what this challenge is all about. December is for revision, after all....

what really happened
it happened in autumn.
tears freckle her cheeks,
pain-choking sobs, deep and
slow and quiet, bloom forth.
while she rips herself
into papery shreds, he sits
seemingly unaffected,
untouched, whole, rounded.

perhaps he simply acts well,
convincing everyone that
he's got it all together
when he is just as fractured,
creeping forward just as feebly.
yet he keeps smiling while
she continues weeping blood
from wounds too deep to measure.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

I only have two more poems to write for this challenge. Then comes the real challenge of this challenge: what to do with them all! I think I may be seeing a bit of a theme emerge, but all the poems need so much work. Aaaaacccckkkk!

Marching ever forward (I think),

Saturday, November 27, 2010

November PAD Poem #27

This is the prompt for Day 27 at the November PAD Poetry Chapbook Challenge: write a poem with "Blame the _______" as the title. And with this poem, I am officially caught up! This poem also qualifies for the Carry on Tuesday Prompt #80 for last week, the first line of George MacDonald's extremely long poem "A Book of Dreams," Part III: "A gloomy and a windy day."

Blame the Rain
As it falls so quietly
on this gloomy and windy day,
the chills buffet me--
not from the cold, mind you--
the cold I can handle.
It's something more sinister,
called forth by rain and greyed skies,
the lack of reflection in puddles
in which I am wholly invisible.
Impotent, I ghost through my days
awash in fears I do not fully comprehend.
All I can do is
blame it on the rain.

Copyright 2010 by Susanne Barrett

Taking a deep breath, so glad to be caught up!

Breathing a bit easier tonight,


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