On this first day of winter in the northern hemisphere it’s bleak and cold here in Williamsburg, Virginia. Seems appropriate somehow!

This holiday season has been a bit on the bleaker side with so many celebratory things we take for granted off the schedule. (Parties, concerts, massive town gatherings…)

Our celebratory reserves may be a little bare, like these trees. This year we also may not be able to give the kind of gifts we would like to give our friends and family.

The reason for the season, however, hasn’t changed one bit: the coming of Jesus into our world, and into our hearts.

On this bleak winter day remember the most important gift we can give is our love…

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.  (Christina Rossetti, 1830 –1894)

grace, peace & bleak winter blues

Virginia : )

Photos: Chincoteague National Wildlife Reserve, VA

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On this last Sunday of Advent, here is a powerful prayer for our hearts to contemplate…

“To the impossible: Yes!
Enter and penetrate
O Spirit. Come and bless
This hour: the star is late.
Only the absurdity of love
Can break the bonds of hate.

This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child.”

Madeleine L’Engle  (from Glimpses of Grace)

grace, peace & irrational blooms

Virginia : )

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#ADVENT: A Quirky Tree Perspective

On this final Saturday of Advent Virginia is contemplating what it means to see the same thing from different perspectives. In this case a quirky tree she caught on camera two Decembers ago at Lewis Ginter’s GardenFest of Lights.

Perspective 1: Quirky tree by sunlight, clouds on the horizon

Perspective 2: Quirky tree at sunset, clear skies

Perspective 3: Quirky tree at dusk, lights on view

Perspective 4: Quirky tree at night, fully lit

You may be wondering what’s up with four pictures of the same tree? In the daylight you can’t see lights on the tree, although they were switched on. Yet, in the dark of night the lights shine the brightest. (You may suspect where Virginia is going with this.)

Just like the lights on this quirky tree, God’s love is with us all the time. When we’re cruising through sunny days, the twinkles of God’s love may not be so easily seen. But when times are hard and dark, God illuminates our lives with love and grace.

A 5th perspective: Quirky tree at Gardenfest 2019!

“The forces of good surround us in wonder, they firm up our courage for what comes our way, God’s with us from dawn to slumber of evening, the promise of Love at break of each day.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

grace, peace & quirky tree perspectives

Virginia : )

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On this Advent Friday here is a Benedictine prayer for the nighttime (that also works when things seem dark and gloomy…)

“Now in the fading light of day,
Maker of all to You I pray,
That with Your ever-watchful love,
You guard and keep me from above.

Help and defend me through the night,
Danger and terror put to flight.
Never let evil have its way,
Preserve me for another day.

Father Almighty this be done,
Through Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who in one Spirit I adore,
Who reigns with You forevermore.  Amen.”

“The Lord is my Light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?…” Psalm 27:1

grace, peace & nighttime prayers

Virginia : )

Photos: Monument Valley, Utah

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Wreaths on our doors are a symbol of welcome. In our home we usually have welcome wreaths on our front door, changing them out according to the season.

But during Advent wreaths take on a whole new meaning. The circle of the wreath signifies eternal life, and the candles of an Advent wreath represent the Light of Christ.

The practice of making holiday wreaths began not long after the advent of Christmas trees in the 16th century. As evergreen trees in northern and eastern Europe were trimmed to fit in homes, the culture of not wasting anything turned excess greenery into circle ornaments, then wreaths. Evergreen trees that thrived through harsh winter symbolized hope, thus placing a circle wreath in a home represented hope in the eternal love of Christ.

The Governor’s Palace festively wreathed in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia (the state!)

I don’t know when wreaths began symbolizing welcome all year around, but in our town of Williamsburg putting up wreaths has been a sign of welcome for years on end.

Chowning’s Tavern Holiday Wreath, Williamsburg

Holiday wreaths can be a daily reminder: are we putting wreaths on the doors of our hearts for Christ to always be welcome? Are we putting welcome wreaths out for others (especially those different from us) to be at home in our hearts?

grace, peace & holiday wreaths

Virginia  : )

“Oh! Like a wreath let Christmas mirth today encircle all the earth, and bind the nations with the love that Jesus brought from heaven above.” Maud Lindsay (1874–1941)

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#Advent: Quickie Quote

On this Advent Wednesday here’s a short yet powerful quote to contemplate…

“The teaching of Christ is not Christ for me unless I am determined to have Christ formed in me.” Oswald Chambers 

grace, peace & spiritual formation

Virginia : )

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The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

It’s amazing what a difference light makes when things are gloomy.

We may have trouble finding our way when doom and gloom cloud our horizons. It’s at times when the doom is darkest, a little light goes a long way.

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” Anne Frank

grace, peace & GLOOMY DAY LIGHT

Virginia : )

“Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.”  Pope Francis

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#ADVENT: Dark Nights of the Soul

“The endurance of darkness is the preparation for great light.” Saint John of the Cross

Today we remember St. John of the Cross, a 16th century Spanish saint (1541-1591) well known for his “Dark Night of the Soul.”  During his ministry St. John of the Cross was misunderstood, mistreated, and maligned.

He came to know the dark intimately while imprisoned for his progressive faith. Yet in the depths of suffering he came to a deeper understanding of the incredible heights of God’s love. In these tumultuous times may we take comfort from St. John of the Cross that the Light of God’s love is with us in the darkest depths of our scariest nights.

In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God.” Saint John of the Cross

And I saw a river over which every soul must pass to reach the Kingdom of Heaven, and the name of that river was suffering … and then I saw a boat which carries souls across the river, and the name of that boat was Love.Saint John of the Cross

grace, peace & LOVE

Virginia : )

Where there is no love, put love, and you will draw love out.Saint John of the Cross

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I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God…” (Isaiah 61:10)

On this Gaudete Sunday of Advent we are called to “Rejoice!” Given all the staggering challenges that surround us these days, finding our joy grooves may be a difficult task.

All during this season we hear carols about joy and songs of good cheer. It’s easy sometimes to confuse joy with merrymaking and happiness, but joy is so much more.

“Joy is the noblest human act.” St. Thomas Aquinas

Joy is not superficial happiness that depends on what happens. Joy comes from within the heart, sometimes deep within when horribles squash and pummel our hope to oblivion.

Joy chooses faith in God’s love, mercy, and grace to carry us through tough times. Joy sustains our hurting hearts, however deep our hurts may be.

Joy does not mean pain-free living, but does not let pain drive us to darkness. Joy chooses to follow the Light, even when it’s hard at times to see the dimmest flicker.

Joy finds value in the rubble of decimated lives, because those lives are valuable. Joy comes from a well of Love transported on wings of compassion that lift up the brokenhearted.

Joy finds and grows roses in the rubble of our lives (and rubble that surrounds us), watering them with extra helpings of faith, hope and love.

At the end and beginning of each day, joy is a choice.

“Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge…” Henri Nouwen

Joy comes in all shapes and sizes, and Joy is what this season of Advent is all about.

Light coming into darkness. Love incarnated. Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Joy is possible, because Jesus Christ is.

grace, peace & joy

Virginia : )

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…”

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Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Years ago in the 16th century, native peasant Juan Diego encountered a vision of Mary on a hill near his village in Mexico. Dressed in native attire Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke to him in his local language.

When the disbelieving Spanish bishop in Mexico City asked for a sign, Our Lady of Guadalupe provided out-of-season December roses for Juan Diego on the hilltop. As Juan opened his tunic carrying the roses to the bishop back in Mexico City, the image of Our Lady in native attire was imprinted on his clothing.

Virgen de Guadalupe, Luis Berrueco (painting @ VMFA)

This led to millions of native Indians coming to faith in the Americas with the empowering message (revolutionary at that time to the Spanish colonizers) that God loves ALL people! A message that remains relevant for our times.

It may come as no surprise that Virginia is a huge rose groupie (note the name of this blog: Roses in the Rubble.) The fact that Our Lady of Guadalupe chose to chastise the Spanish bishop with December roses – something beautiful and fragrant – is something that makes this feast day all the more meaningful.

“This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child.”

Madeleine L’Engle (from Glimpses of Grace)

In this irrational season, may we honor Mary by letting the love of Christ bloom bright in our hearts – like roses in December!

grace, peace & December roses

Virginia : )

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