Friday, 25 December 2009

A Mary Christmas Eve

I woke up this morning to a comfortable room in a bed piled high with blankets and pillows. My house was still and warm as my family dozed on and off for the next few hours, happy and cozy and safe, all once again under the same roof. I love coming home for Christmas: hugs that somehow turn into headlocks and far more meals than necessary, the pulling out of old instruments and the wrapping of gifts, silly photo shoots and there is bound to be a snowball fight... home, family, love, affection. This is Christmas.

But as I woke up this morning I had another kind of thought that was a little less like mistletoe and chocolate... it was of the first “Merry Christmas Eve.” And tonight I had the pleasure of living something quite akin.

Every Christmas Eve since before I can remember we have been one of two places: in a room packed with cousins at extended family Christmas, or at Church for the candlelight service. Tonight was the latter option and the gymnasium that doubles for our chapel was full of people from the Sunday-morning-and-night regulars to families that rarely see the inside of a church but make exceptions for such special occasions. Kids that I haven’t seen since they were reaching up to grasshopper’s knee are now looking me square in the eye and old friends who have moved on and moved away reunite with wonderful hugs and smiles that pour out love to all generously. The service began late, as it always does, allowing time for the stragglers and those who had a distant parking place to make their way to the seats that have been carefully and apologetically saved for them in the business of settling down. The lights dimmed, the music began and right on cue the babies cried. And cried... and cried.

A few of the little voices behind us were familiar in nature. I looked over my shoulder a few times before passing a note down the row to my Mum: “Should I go and take him out?” She shook her head but a minute later, Care began to move and the two of us slipped out the chapel’s side door, looking to help if we could.

When we got to the Nursery there were already a few sets of parents running around after their kids. They were all dressed up and we could tell that they wanted to be in the service much more than either of us did so we opened an unofficial, impromptu childcare service and the two of us did our best to entertain the seven babies and toddlers who were living on the tipping edge of too-much-sugar and past-your-bedtime. It was exactly the emotional change of pace I needed – a personal connection to that first of Christmastime anniversaries. This, children running and playing and listening to stories and singing and laughing and enjoying the simplicity of company, this is Christmas. This was Mary’s kind. Well, this was Mary’s kind post-labour and after a long nap... maybe it was more like this the year after His birth... haha.

When the service ended we were paid well with many appreciative smiles and “Thank you”s full of blessing. I think the half hour we spent with those kids is likely the most important gift I will give this Christmas, and definitely the one that most harkens back to the Christ child – the gift-wrapped Redeemer, the little swaddled Saviour, who would, in the blink of His mother’s eye, grow up and take on the world.

So, as I head off to a night of home-made tradition and celebration and a day of such activities to follow in haste, I wish you all a very Mary Christmas. May God bless you with hope and love this year and all of those to come.

Thursday, 17 December 2009


The life of a pillowcase is not as glamorous as the Sears catalogue makes it out to be.

Pressed and lacy atop an unwrinkled bed is not the life that most of them experience. In fact, such pillowcases are not even really pillowcases... they're airbrushed and starched phonies. And some of them aren't even stuffed. The true test of a pillowcase, the surest way to find out what it's really made of is right around Christmastime: runny noses, phlegm-filled coughs, leaky eyes, too much sugar. If a pillowcase can withstand that much wear, it should be set for life. Or, at least that is what they are told....

For Lumpy, however, life was filled with more beatings than bedtimes. Even for restless little dreamers, something about Lumpy was a little too off center. He was rejected for the guestroom, rejected from the living room chesterfield and even the family dog refused to sleep with him... and so, Lumpy was demoted to the lowest possible position a pillowcase could find himself in.

Lumpy became the road-trip barf-bag.

Shouts of "I'm gonna BLOW!" gave Lumpy the shakes, which, unfortunately, only seemed to make the children more nauseous. Last night's pasta dinner and this morning's bran cereal fire-hosed out of the mouths and nostrils that gagged in his face. Lumpy hated this game. This game made Lumpy want to hurl.

One night driving home from hockey practice on the windy Northern roads, Chris (the third of four children in this family, and "King of Regurgitation") had second thoughts about his Chinese/McDonald's third quarter snack. Lumpy had known all along that this was a bad plan, and couldn't believe his seams when Chris' mother agreed to "pick something like that up" for her boys. Lumpy tried to warn her, but to no avail. People never listen to their laundry. And so, on the way home, Chris' stomach began to turn. Little burps sputtered out between his lips and the phrases "excuse me" and "I don't feel so good" seemed to limit his vocabulary. Chris' mom was taking the turns just a little too fast and Chris' seatbelt was just a little too high and a little too tight... before long Lumpy was staring up the young boy's nose in horror.

"NO!" cried Lumpy, his mouth yanked open so hard he thought he might pop a stitch, "Please! For Tailor's sake! Hold it in!"

But he did not. He could not. Noodles and partially digested ground beef filled an inch and a half of the poor pillowcase's self. Lumpy choked back a gag. And then it occurred to him... a brilliant plan, so simple, so devilish, so perfect...

Lumpy drew in a great breath. He stretched himself back, pulling against the boy's grip down to the ground, to the floor of the SUV and as soon as the boy took notice of this change, Lumpy catapulted himself inside out, blowing the chunks right back into Chris' face! Chris tried to scream and realized too late that his mouth was once again full of his vomit... but not for long...

Chris refilled Lumpy and Lumpy flung it out again! This time it hit Chris' mom on the side of her face! "CHRIS!" she hollered. "AIM FOR THE BAG!!" Chris could say nothing. He was as green as the Grinch. It was worse than the time his sister spit into her hand and rubbed it in his eye. This was the worst moment of his life.

That was not the case for Lumpy. Lumpy finally had taken his revenge. He would be a legend in the linen closet for years to come. He would be awarded some kind of prize for this. This night’s actions would go down in fabric history. And indeed they did.

When Chris got home he had to clean the whole vehicle by himself. Lumpy got washed -- thoroughly -- and to everyone's surprise, promoted. Apparently the only thing that will hide barf stains is car polish. And so our hero spent the rest of his days buffing and shining both family vehicles, far out of reach of snotty nose and leaking tears and all kinds of vomit. And, if you ask me, he does the job very, very well.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Adventures of Chai Spice

I had to laugh at myself tonight. I thought I would give you the opportunity to join me in the light-hearted mockery and quickly relay my tale.

As I began to settle in for another long night of work (and distraction), I set my kettle to boil. From time to time I change up my ritual hot chocolate for something a little lighter and a little less like the warm, soothing segue into dream that cocoa is, especially on wintry nights. Usually I'm a peppermint girl when it comes time for tea. I love the smell, the taste and the feeling of peppermint - it too has a soothing effect but without the automatic reaction of my sinking eyelids. Even my sugarless peppermint, however, has had very little effect on my ability to stay up later than usual, recently. And tonight I learned why.

Did you know that some teas are not caffeinated? Did you know that some actually announce "no caffeine" on their labels? Some tea tins even make it brilliantly obvious, in a different colour and an interesting font that practically begs to be read. Maybe if I'd have been more awake I would have noticed... but then I wouldn't have needed the tea.

So, tonight my peppermint is not overly helpful, and it's "no caffeine" twin in cinnamon will also remain in my cupboard. Luckily (or perhaps fiendishly), my Mom once left a bag of Home-groceries here in my home and one of the magical inheritances I stashed away was a box of "Chai Spice Black Tea," quite appropriately from the "Stash Premium" collection. I was a little skeptical at first (it was a box of individually packaged paper bags, the kind of box I associate more with hotel continental breakfasts than my little kitchen table), but after unwrapping and steeping my first mug of tea, I must admit I'm very impressed.

Good taste, Mom... I think I'll keep the rest of the box...

Monday, 14 December 2009

It does not mix!

Lessons from my weekend:
1)Beautiful gowns and long gloves do not mix with Language and Rhetoric.
2)The making and eating of caramel corn does not mix with Language and Rhetoric.
3)The making and eating of quesadillas does not mix with Language and Rhetoric.
4)My guitar and a fat binder of worship music do not mix with Language and Rhetoric.
5)TV, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and my blogs do not mix with Language and Rhetoric.
6)Comfortable seating and warm rooms do not mix with Language and Rhetoric.
7)Uncomfortable seating and cold rooms also do not mix with Language and Rhetoric.
8)Unsupervised study time does not mix with Language and Rhetoric.
9)Study time spent in the company of others does not mix with Language and Rhetoric.
10)Blank Word documents do not mix with Language and Rhetoric.
11)The internal distraction of things that are eternally more important than Language and
      Rhetoric does not mix with Language and Rhetoric.

12)Visual access to any kind of clock does not mix with Language and Rhetoric.
13)Everything does not mix with Language and Rhetoric!

When there is this much snow outside, when the pretty lights are up, when I have Christmas cards to write, a blanket to finish, my room to clean and pack and when home is so close... school just feels meaningless, like the first chunk of Ecclesiastes.

Please! I just want to go home!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

A Million Directions

I feel like I'm standing inside of a dark sphere. The globe that surrounds me is gray, like lead, like the graphite line of a pencil marked by a sure hand with intentional pressure. The sides of this space feel like carpet and as I lightly pass my hand over the soft, bristly wall it ripples around in every direction. It moves like water and like light. It seems nearly alive, but it is something far more mysterious even than life... it is potential.

This dome, this place, this room... it is the ultimate crossroads. Each speck on the wall, each point of the room is a choice. I am standing in choice. When I leave this place I will follow one of these lines. I will choose one path and I will go to one place. It is here, now, that I am setting my course. It is here and now that I must make my decision.

I single out a single route, separating it from the others and holding it between my fingertips. Each strand no wider than the breadth of a hair, nigh invisible amongst the others and yet as dark and gray and full of promise as the sphere itself. What does this path hold? A life of security and luxury and comfort. I set it back and move a few steps to my left. Again I select one line from the wall of lines and press it between my forefinger and thumb. Where will this road take me? A life of adventure and tragedy. The next, a life of poverty and love. The next of influence, the next of risks and purpose, the next of sun, the next of snow. How do I choose? How do I move from this place?

Hopelessness overwhelms me. I feel as though every direction is out of my reach, that I have no way of knowing the right path and that I am bound to failure. I sit down in the bowl of this room and drop my face into my hands and close my eyes. I feel nothing. I feel numb. Numbness is worse than sadness and hopelessness worse than defeat because they are motiveless and static.

Then somebody gives me a hug. A voice, deep and warm fills my ears and my heart... It wraps around me like the thickest and softest of furs, comforting in a way than nothing else can and filling me with sound so rich and so full that I am completely disarmed and yet held, somehow, in perfect peace and safety.

"Choose with confidence," He says, "and I will be there. Wherever you go I will protect you. Whatever you do I will guide you. I will comfort you in tragedy and humble you in wealth. I will watch over you in danger and equip you in risk. I will provide for you in poverty. I will sing over you when you fear. I will arm you and guard you, I will be with you in sickness and I will fill your heart with hope and with love. I love you. You are my girl. And I will care for you always."

Relief floods my soul. He is at the end of every path. He is there in every step along it. I do not have to fear these choices because whatever I do, if I do it seeking Him and His heart, He will make good of it and He will use me.

I open my eyes to thank Him, the Voice of Truth and Hope and Peace...

And what I see takes my breath away.

A million faces look back at me. Children unknown and unnoticed, teenagers alone and afraid, young men fighting for their country and their hearts, young women struggling with image and expectation, men crying out for leadership, women crying out for justice, every different age and colour and culture, all of them looking at me, looking to me... and then, suddenly something changes. One by one in a ripple that turns into a mighty wave, each face is changed. A smile, a look of hope, an expression of peace and joy. This is the change that God can make. But it doesn't change all at once. It ripples out. It ripples out from one path.

The Voice returns for a moment and echoes His own great Word: "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."

I reach out to the place where the ripples began. I will, with trembling hand and willing heart, take that path of change. I don't know what it brings for me. I don't know how long it is or where or how I will live, but I will take it.

Jesus, take it with me. Help me find my way in Your Way and lead me to You in every step. I love you back, and I am ready.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Chronicles of My (Almost) 61 Hr Day

7:54 Mistake number one? Leaving six final projects unfinished until the last two days of school. Mistake number two? Not even starting six final projects until the last two days of school. Please don’t take this as a horrifying testimony to my character (and Mom, please don’t let this stress you out. By the time you read this it will all be a thing of the past. You said it best... I work best and almost only under pressure). It will get done! It will all get done on time! And this little chronicle will help me prove it.

I woke up at about nine o’clock this morning. As I figure it, if I can make use of all of tonight, tomorrow and tomorrow night I will have all of my work done for each respective class and retain time to prep for my group presentation on Wednesday night. I have played this game before and I have learned a few tricks. For all of you would-be crammers and procrastinators, take a lesson from a professional and DON’T! It’s really not worth it. But if you must, here are a few tips:

First: Don’t try to push past your attention span. When the writing is a struggle and you can’t think straight, move on to something else. Try another project or watch a short YouTube video, write a letter, read a comic, do push-ups or jumping jacks or take a shower or go by some Macs Milk... something to give your brain a change or a rest... then come back to your work. That’s a very key part.

Second: Don’t nap! Trust me on this one. Napping quickly turns into hibernation, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Personally, I think it’s internal mafia action... your brain and your body override your conscience and work ethic and then it’s lights out for everybody. Resist your pillow’s seduction by all means possible. It’s a trap.

Third: Look forward to the sunrise. If you don’t see them often, it’s worth staying up just for that. Last time I played this game the sun woke up around 5:00 but something tells me it’s later in the wintertime. We shall see!

So for now I’m off to work. I have to read a whack for my Language and Rhetoric project... actually, I need to find the outline for that project first... so I think that’s job number one. And here we go!

9:03 Well... you can’t expect every hour to be a productive one, but I have hoped that the first one would have more to show for it. I did find two course syllabi and the sketch of a horse from a while back and some pirate stickers, but then I checked facebook and looked up one (okay, seven) song(s) on YouTube... The plan is a good one, I swear, but getting the work and the distractions in the right order is proving a sliver trickier than I had hoped. Let’s try this again...

9:10 Huzzah! The outline has been recovered. And good news, I don’t actually need a thesis for this one.

9:58 Shakespeare (assuming you are not one of the “there is no such man, it’s all a clever ruse” conspiracy theorists who doubt everything ever attributed to the playwright), composed a whopping 154 sonnets. A sonnet is a poem of fourteen lines that follows a very specific rhythm and rhyme scheme... so my question is, has Billy done an incredible feat of literary genius, or is this collection simply one good system that has been beaten into the ground for all it’s worth? What is more impressive: Shakespeare and his 154 sonnets (of echoing structure) and his 38 plays (of borrowed and stolen plot), or the collection of 86 Relient K songs that express an array of emotion not only through form but with the added layer of vocal harmony and creative instrumental movement? A course on layered lyrics... now that’s a class worth taking!

10:41 I hereby present the award for Best and Worst Invention of All Time to The Internet! Clap, clap, clap...

11:26 I’m toying with the idea of sleep. This challenge would top the charts of LAME if I didn’t follow through after getting this far in. And, if I quit I’m going to have a brutal life tomorrow not handing in my work... so I guess I have to hit these books a little harder. I’m currently setting aside the Language and Rhetoric phonemics project in favour of my Children’s Lit assignment: “In the original Puss in Boots, the cat was female. How does this change affect the story?” Right up my alley!

12:31 I think this will be easier when everybody else goes to bed. I just watched a Caesarean on YouTube (who posts such videos?!) with my nursing roommate. Then we looked into bunion surgery... I think I’ll keep my mutant feet. I also refilled my champagne glass (of Sprite... we just love stemware) and now I’m back to work, making slow progress... but progress nonetheless! One more thing: Phil Wickham’s “You’re Beautiful” is an amazing song. Go look it up. You can’t help but smile and feel empowered to praise!

7:43 F-A-I-L. My roommate just woke me up. Blasted pillows! How, how, do they pull me in every time?! So tricky.

2:01 I need a chiropractor! I don’t know whether it’s the stress or aftermath of my pumpernickel breakfast, but something is not right in my body today! I feel the need to find a corner and assume the fetal position. Please, Friday! Come quickly!

3:39 Who wants to bet that I'll focus better at home than here at school? Yeah, I don't really think so either. But I did get some work done for my Dad. Why didn't I go into marketing and creative design? It sounds like a LOT more fun than my grammar project right now! Ah well. One exam out of the way and five more major cumulative assignments still due... But who's counting.

9:50 Hopefully tonight will go a little better for me. I have a lot of work to do, but I’m feeling a lot more focused. Let’s knock a few of these off my list! (Geography lab, Children’s Lit essay, Genre presentation, Genre essay, LangRhet project. And go!) Ps. Heather’s humming very loudly in the kitchen. It’s a happy sound. A little... Pirates of the Caribbean, maybe?

11:29 Okay. So, this one lab is going to take a little longer than I anticipated. I really hope all of my projects don’t follow the same pattern! I secretly do want to sleep tonight!

12:39 I really need a back and shoulder and neck massage. I don’t even remember a time I’ve felt sorer and I’m growing a headache (but that’s probably from the Sprite; I don’t have pop often and it messes with my body when I do). Where is that affectionate boyfriend of mine when I need him? Oh right. I don’t have one...

12:52 Sleeeeeeepp... How I long for thee. Time for a change of scenery... more Bible perhaps? Yes, I think I will.

1:42 Success! One project out of the way! Take that, Geography! Never again shall I struggle through your endless tedious map-reading and number-crunching. From now on I throw the directions out the window! Navigation by rock-paper-scissors and when in doubt turn left: that’s my philosophy.

2:32 Wow. I could really use a nap to follow my shower. I always think it will wake me up, but it always seems to have the opposite effect. I was so pumped a half hour ago... now I’m fighting with gravity to keep my eyes open. What a bad plan!

9:44 So, I did have that nap. And I did fall asleep. Shocker. So, what am I going to do today? I’m not exactly sure yet...

10:41 There is hope for me yet! I now have a thesis for both of my papers and an with an outline for my presentation it shouldn’t take long. Now I’m heading into the school to my last Geography class ever (I’m really broken up about it. I’ll miss this course so much! *I’m getting all choked up over here, blink back the tears*). Hopefully I’ll finish everything but the LangRhet project at school today and hand it all in, then with that one project left (not really due until Friday) I will be able to come home and watch Glee tonight in relative peace. Now that is a goal I can work towards! I’m almost out of this madness! YES!

1:08 So, I’m sitting in the library, staring at a creative first paragraph for the paper that is due in only five hours. “Electronic hypertext is a world of fragments. Each thought is its own text and each word has a unique history and a potential future. For the reader, a well constructed electronic hypertext is the beginning of a new reality, one of never ending trails to wander into, a tangled snare designed to help you lose your mind and gain, in exchange, something completely different: a self-aware social consciousness.” Not bad for a first draft, but it has nothing to do with my thesis. Some days I really hate assignments. I want to create! I don’t want to be limited by the ideals of another! I’m sick of writing to please my professors instead of writing to simply express or learn or teach. These lines seem so… dead. This work is petty! Useless! How is this going to help me teach children? Can this further my relationships or foster a love for anything? Can I find God in this area of study? Can it be applied to any realm of my life? Is this education ultimately worth anything? School is about jumping through hoops as much as it is training for a career and a life outside of these (often prison-bare) corridors and classrooms. I’m over the novelty of university and all I see now is futility. I need a hobby… I need a more involving ministry. I need a better reason than classes to stay in North Bay. The world is calling my name! My heart wants to be in Mexico or Argentina or India or Egypt or Iran or Africa, really making a difference in the lives of the people who God has called me to love. I need to be a physical help to someone. I need to have more impact on this world than an academic opinion that means and says nothing because it is a passionless organization of regurgitated information. God has given me gifts, but I don’t know how to use them in this place. Maybe that’s my problem… I just need to learn how to make my life eternally important here. God, show me how.

1:49 My friend Andrew has given me some tips that are apparently proven effective for staying up all night. He’s pretty sleep deprived, so I’m betting they come from experience:

First: “Find yourself a support group.” MSN chatting with others is a good way to keep accountable… or distracted. The only risk is falling into an actual conversation, which I tend to do. Maybe I’ll try this one out though… I just need to find some friends who are successful night-owls.

Secondly: no comfortable furniture. “The trick is to take all the cushions off your couch and just sit on the springs.” It seems like it would be a more successful plan than my futon or my bed… those plans led to failure quickly.

2:37 Peppermint Patties are my new favourite chocolates. I’m addicted. There’s no going back.

3:11 BAH, this computer doesn’t have Internet access!! How am I supposed to source this without the sources??

3:22 I wrote a verse up on the whiteboard earlier. I do it pretty frequently. Before I went to the bathroom I had a conversation with a woman I didn’t know about how she loves reading them and seeing them up on the wall. When I came back to my computer there were three people on the opposite side of my computer bank talking about it too… they’re currently looking up Bible verses about hell and wrath to counter it. Isn’t it amazing how a simple verse of encouragement can spark such a reaction? There is no middle ground with God – you have to choose a side – but this is the most dramatic clash I’ve seen here yet. Will it stop me from writing up there? Nope. In fact, it makes me want to do it more. God is moving and I want to be part of that.

3:44 25% done this paper and freaking out a bit! Any time that adrenaline wants to kick in, that would be amazing.

4:20 Pretty much half done. I need to find at least one source though.

11:45 Well. I did get almost everything done, but I have to say this was far less successful than I had hoped. I finished my essay, and I presented my presentation. With only two things left on my agenda I’m feeling a lot more peace. Christmas is almost here! And on that note I leave you – but keep your eyes peeled for a lot more posts in the next few weeks. With more time off I’ll be able to finish all those stories I’ve been half writing this term! And working on some pre-January homework, of course.

I wish I could think of something epic to end this with. A joke perhaps? Or just a punchline?

“And then the florist said, ‘But I only paid a dollar fifty!’”


Friday, 4 December 2009

Dead Man's Path

It is often said that when seeking to understand another's point of view you must walk for a while in his shoes. Of course, this is not often assumed to be a literal suggestion. It's a metaphor, an idea, a change of perspective that does not actually require the physical experience... but what if you did take it seriously? What if you could walk a mile in another's shoes... or socks?

I have told you before of my well-loved, second-hand wardrobe. I often marvel at second-hand things because, without knowing what the histories of the objects are, I know they have a rich past and I'm sure if my inanimate possessions suddenly became sentient each would have a wonderful story to tell. I often wander Sally Ann or Value Village looking for something that is simply too unique and special to be found in chain stores and that simply must be added to my (admittedly and proudly odd) collection; let's take last week as an example.

Nine days ago I spent the best eight dollars I have ever spent in Salvation Army: snow pants, but not just any snow pants... empire waist, bright red-orange Korean snow pants complete with suspenders and armpit-side-panel stretchy bands and one single pocket that is angled awkwardly backwards to the right hip. They are incredible. (Really, you don't even know. I love them. You will probably read more about my adventures with these snow pants and winter gets deeper. I spent longer than I should have jumping up and down in the change room celebrating and grinning madly to myself over my find.)

That day I also picked up some things that I don't usually get second-hand. You see, in the bin of headscarves (I found two that day... 50 cents each! How can Walmart compare?) were three pairs of socks. Most of my socks I either buy at a department store or I steal them from my Mom or my sisters when I go home, but I've been losing socks at a ridiculous rate lately (I blame the gremlinens... I'll write you a story about them soon) so on a whim I picked them all up and tossed them in with my other purchases (the glorious snow pants, three old books, a gold ball gown for Missa, etc).

I didn't think much of them at first. All three pairs made themselves home comfortably in my top drawer and I let them be for a while (enamoured by the snow pants and distracted by other things in my life). Then Friday came.

This past weekend was my extended family Christmas. We skipped the reunion in 2008 so there was two full years of catching up to be done this time 'round the tree. Naturally I left minor preparatory details like packing and laundry until the bitter end (signified by my Dad standing in my bedroom doorway ready to take me back Home). With nothing ready I was forced to do what I always seem forced to do... the three-minute-run-and-pack-everything-dance. Needless to say, in the flurry of my chaotic bag-stuffing adventure all three pairs of second-hand-store socks made their way into my suitcase.

Friday night was a ball! After I stealthily squirreled away my Christmas gifts (muahahaha, family! Good luck with the treasure hunt this year! It's going to be epic!), Mom and I re-discovered the mutated Scrabble-esque game called Banannagrams and I dominated, as usual. Tim came down for the weekend as well and braved the evening and trip down without his fair maiden to keep him company in the madness that our home can be at times. He was in for a mess of harassment for being the first beau to show up at Christmas with a third generation girl. (They actually let him off way too easy in my opinion. But then, they didn't have any snow banks to make use of this year...) And all this time my socks stayed nestled away in my bag... but not for long.

Saturday. My cold feet drove me to pair of socks number one... the infamous pair, the cottony climax of my story. They seemed nothing unusual. They seemed generally average. They were just a tick too long, but not so much that I was consciously unsettled, and they had a small tag by the arch of my foot. I probably should have read that tag. But I did not. I believe it was Carolyn who first muttered the accusatory, frightening phrase: "Nik... whose socks are you wearing?"

Not mine.

The name, clearly labelled and stitched into the very fabric of the knitted hosiery, was not my name. How long did my family laugh at me? How long did I spend keeled-over in hysterics? A long, long time. It was kind of wonderful.

So I have a pair of someone else's socks. I don't know, of course, but I suppose someone who takes the time to sew tags onto a pair of brown socks in good condition probably doesn't give them up without cause. I suppose he's probably dead. He may be alive and well, but I think the odds are high.

Where have these socks been? Who was it that wore them before? What is their past, their history, their story? Suddenly the questions that were always a mildly vague afterthought to second-hand wonders have been wearing on me. I guess it’s silly. It’s all pretty silly. But, then again, maybe it’s not. Can God use even something as silly as an old pair of stockings to capture my attentions and drag wandering thoughts back to Himself? Of course He can. So, stranger-friend of mine, I don’t know anything more than your name and room number, but today you and your family are getting some prayer. Your hand-me-down socks have reminded me that people I don’t know need as much prayer and attention of intention as my friends and family.

Pick a stranger, someone, anyone, no matter their mood. Pray for them. Take a minute and step into their socks… and offer a smile of encouragement and a prayer of help as you cross paths. God only knows how much they could use a little holy intervention today.