The First Few Days of Christmas

My sister comes home!

My amazing family



O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and
rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be
our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee,
to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou
art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for Quiet Confidence, Book of Common Prayer

I say these words aloud, hoping the words of my mouth become the meditation of my heart. Because right now all I feel is weakness and frustration at my own weakness. I have quiet, but no confidence, only a small hope and trust that all will be well. And I know soon, maybe in a few minutes, maybe in a day or so, I'll be able to look back and laugh at my own seriousness. I'll remember my small place in His grand plan and move on with life. But right now, I just feel weak, vulnerable, open to the fears and doubts that crowd my mind.

And so I pray.

Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou
wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save
us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see
light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through
Jesus Christ our Lord.



Third Sunday of Advent

"Possible things are easy to believe. The Glorious Impossibles are what bring joy to our hearts, hope to our lives, songs to our lips."

The Glorious Impossible, Madeleine L'Engle


Second Sunday of Advent

"Consider how much the Advent season holds, how it it breaks into our lives with images of light and dark, first and last things, watchfulness and longing, origin and destiny."

Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk



Filling Silence

It's one of those quiet days where I feel somewhat lonely. But in a happy, thankful-for-my-friends-in-the-far-corners-of-the-world way. I sit here and watch sunshine flood in while shadows settle comfortably in the corners. There's a stack of books here, and I read poetry aloud. Words drive the silence out. Beautiful, beautiful words. I love them.

Here are some of words that make that filled the silence of this December day.

I saw Eternity the other night
Like a great Ring of pure and endless light,
All calm as it was bright ;
And round beneath it, Time, in hours, days, years,
Driven by the spheres,
Like a vast shadow moved, in which the world
And all her train were hurled.

From The World, Henry Vaughn

steps within a dance,

Things that could not be by chance;
Architecture of belief?
Arch of bole and veign of leaf.
Crystal's angles; raindrop's curves;
Bone and sinew knit with nerves.
Fleck of wrist, fly toss, and then
Break of bubble, flash of fin.
Beyond these sure and certain hints,
A clearer class of evidence:
Broken fever, opened eyes,
Dove descending from the skies.
Footstep firm on slope of wave;
Stone rolled back from Jesus' grave.
Glory growing out of grief?
Architecture of belief;
Things that could not be by chance:
Structured steps within the dance.

Apologia, Donald T Williams


My Beautiful Sister


What Happens on Break

Challenge for Thanksgiving Break: Read all of Shannon Hale's books.

Outcome: A very happy girl.

(And a completed challenge!)

Shannon Hale has absolutely delightful stories, she makes me laugh out loud and smile. A lot. I highly recommend her books - especially Enna Burning and Book of a Thousand Days. And the Actor and the Housewife is fun also. And The Goose Girl. And, well, I really like them all.

Two fun quotes :)

"I don't know how you persist in being so stubborn."
"It's a superpower. I was bitten by a radioactive mule."

- The Actor and the Housewife

"Jane sat beside Colonel Andrew. He had a dashing smile. It nearly dashed right off his face."

- Austenland


First Sunday of Advent

VENI veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

Veni, veni O Oriens,
solare nos adveniens,
noctis depelle nebulas,
dirasque mortis tenebras.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

O COME, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that morns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death's dark shadow put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!



For Faith

We're bright green and red. The sun brings out every little color detail about my home. My beautiful home.

My little brother sits on my lap, laughing rather contagiously. He asks about my bracelet - orange, teal, turquoise, purple. And I tell him our colors, then I tell him about my friend who loves color.

We both smile and then snap! The shutter closes, and the camera catches the moment in digital pixels. We're both little children, loving and laughing in this world of color.


Gratitude (1)

Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for He shall pluck my feet out of the net.

Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.

The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses.

Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins.

Psalm 25:15-18

Gratitude for the man of God who penned his thoughts in such a human way, and gratitude to my Lord for placing these thoughts in His word. It's a comfort knowing that I'm not the only who cries in the night, who is just ... weak. And it even seems silly sometimes to have these thoughts. I'm not in danger of death, and I can think of so many who have it so much worse than I do. And yet I'm weak enough to cry and feel darkness and doubt press into my soul. I cry for my own weakness on top of it all.

I'm so grateful for the word of God, for my very own small blue Bible that testifies to my own weakness with its tear-splotched pages and (small) scattered rips. Even if I am just a weak and silly girl, I have a great Savior. And He has given me these words of life, these words which will uphold and lift me through my days.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

I will love thee, O LORD, my strength.

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.

Psalm 18: 1-2, 46

Here is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God!


This Patch Of Sunlight

I'm in a world of sunlight and words. My brown dress has permanent wrinkles from being crushed in hugs all morning. The sun streams onto the faces of my sleeping sisters. And it's so beautiful. I fill my mind with a Shannon Hale's story or lay the book down and enjoy the calm happiness of just being home.

I love it here, love these small pieces of sunlight. Buoyant, joyful, I could conquer the world right now. The antibiotics help this feeling, no doubt, and I know this strength is temporary. It'll fade with the sun. But I still am grateful for it. These pieces of sunlight make the weakness and pain all the more bearable. I skipped down the side-aisles with my little brother at church today. I don't regret it now, even though I'm exhausted. It's definitely worth it.

Praise God for Sundays with sunlight.



Goodbye is hovering over us, just like the grey clouds that fill the sky. We're all wearing red, seeking comfort in the warmth of colors and our friendship. We know that it's not a final goodbye, but two months seems too long in our little corner of the present.

Home is waiting just a couple hours away. Home, time with friends and family, hectic work schedules, and the blast of Southern weather. But we'll definitely come back to our second home.

Love you girls.


Notes and Pictures

To mark not just a moment, but to mark the many moments that I'll never forget.

This day beauty split the sky, and the clouds scrambled around. (click)

This day the river reflected a blue that was brighter than the sky itself.

I spent a Saturday with these three wonderful friends.

HillAbbey girls walked around and pulled random reeds. Later that day, we had a huge bonfire that illuminated our smiling faces.

I love these moments.


Weakness and Strength

"Having lost everything, he gave his weakness to God, and it became his strength. In a way, all the tales are one tale, the tale of how God's power is found in weakness. But that is the story of the whole of life, if you know how to read it right."

- Penelope Wilcock, The Hawk and the Dove

"The fourth step of humility for the monk is that in this obedience under difficult, unfavorable, or even unjust conditions, his heart quietly embraces suffering and endures it without weakening or seeking escape. For Scripture has it, 'Be brave of heart and rely on the Lord."

- The Rule of St. Benedict

"The early Christian monks staked their survival on their willingness to be as God made them, creatures of the day-to-day. [...] It is all a matter of falling down and standing back up again, no matter how many times."

- Kathleen Norris, Acedia & Me

"Are you in shadow? Are you in pain? Next to you, is Hamlet a happy man? Has the rock been lifted, removing the sky, tearing your life in half?

Do not cry to me. I can only cry with you. I will not die for you. I am still too young in the meaning of love. Talk to the Fool, to the one who left a throne to enter an anthill. He will enter your shadow. It cannot taint Him. He has done it before. His holiness is not fragile. It burns like a father to the sun. Touch His skin, put your hand in His side. He has kept His scars when He did not have to. Give Him your pain and watch it overwhelmed, burned away by the joy He takes in loving. In stooping.
In the end, when your life is of a different sort, your first flesh will be dust, and of your grief, not one grain of ash will remain."

- ND Wilson, Notes from a Tilt-A-Whirl

"And He said unto me, 'My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness.' Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

- 2 Corinthians 12:9


Documenting Life, Part 2

For Jacqueline
I made you a cookie. But I eated it.

I love the hollyhocks.


Documenting Life, Part 1

Last Tuesday, Hannah needed motion pictures, so we took colorful scarves and twirled like little kids. Okay, so Faith and Grace twirled, I just stood still.

This is our room :) Grace is sitting next to her bed, Faith's has the bright Mexican blanket, Hannah's is the far right, and mine is the corner jutting into the picture.

The beautiful Grace Anne

Every day we have trappist hour, an hour where we go off alone someplace and write in our journals. I spent yesterday's trappist hour just wandering the Callihan's land.

The lovely Hannah a-trappist-ing


Quotes from a Tilt-A-Whirl

"Faith brings with it the only possibility of peace and joy in this world - the only possibility of laughter on this mad, mad ride."

"If we live in art, struggling in the boundary between the shadow and the light, unable to see the whole, how can we begin to judge?

"In this story, the sun moves. In this story, every night meets a dawn and burns away in the bright joy of the morning. In this story, Winter can never hold back the Spring.

And my favorite.

There is a crushing joy that crackles in every corner of this world. I am tiny and yet I am here. I have been given a senses, awareness, existence, and placed on a stage so crowded with the vast, so teeming with the tiny, that I can do nothing bu laugh, and sometimes laugh and cry.

Living makes dying worth it.

(All quotes from ND Wilson's Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl. Wonderful book)


Of Basil and Hope

Grandfather stood by Captain Rodney's open grave and spoke, "'You are dust, and to dust you shall return.' All of us go down to the dust; yet even at the grave we make our song: Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."

And there was no mistaking the joy in his voice as he sang those last three words.

A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L'Engle

I put the book down, after underlining the passage in pencil. Stacks of basil stalks lay all around me. I was attempting to be industrious and harvest all my basil, pulling leaf after leaf from the stalks. But I had made the mistake of bringing my book outside, and half-way through the work, I entered into a world of bright words.

Plans were in the making for a hopeful move up to ID, and I was so excited. But in the back of my mind, I feared and doubted. My illness likes to catch me at unawares, *and* at the most inconvenient times. And no amount of excitement could calm the fear I had that I might have to stay behind, yet again. That's partially why I chose one of L'Engle's books to read, she always makes me laugh, gives me the ability to laugh at my own fears and embrace light.

Anyway. I came to that passage and couldn't help but be comforted. What kind of hope is this? That we can look at the face of death and sing Alleluia Alleluia?

This glorious hope is as tangible as the basil I held in my hands. I crushed a leaf between my fingers, the fresh smell of basil now surrounding me, like the doubts and fears I had earlier. But now I felt surrounded - and surprised - by hope.

I don't think it's so much knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the acknowledgment that we have light in the tunnel. And come fear, illness, doubts... we have this hope. The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?


Pieced and Pierced

I felt like Meg (from A Wrinkle In Time). Felt that I could touch the words of the Psalmist, if I just reached out my hand.

Sing unto the Lord a new song, and His praise from the end of the earth... let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory unto the Lord!
It was a glorious Sunday afternoon. Our wonderfully diverse church family had gathered at our pastor's house for lunch. David and Ian (20 something year-olds) jumped on the trampoline with Steven and Leo (nine and eleven year-olds). Pastor John taught MichaelAngelo how to play basketball. Dad talked about the Army, Aunty Debbie served cookies. And the September sun shone down on us.

The week had left its marks on me. My two best friends began college, and I was now officially left behind. Harsh and lonely thoughts imprinted my soul. I didn't have an entirely bleak outlook, but combine circumstances with my naturally melodramatic mind, and I was in pieces. I spent most of Saturday looking at the broken bits on the floor and wondering what could happen next.

But then Sunday came. Pastor/Uncle Pete talked about loving one another and living in light of God's mercy. And those words took on flesh as I looked around this Sunday afternoon. For a moment, Time slipped out the back door. Left us suspended in one another-ing with sun rays and the sweaty faces of laughing children. And as we shared our imperfections and our joys, I felt... whole, pieced together by the love I saw and felt. And joy pierced me.

Let us shout from the top of the mountains. Let us give glory unto the Lord.


Morning Prayer

THROUGH the tender mercy of our God 
the dayspring from on high hath visited us.

Glory be to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee,

Creator of the light, Enlightener of the world.
God is the Lord, Who hath shewed us light :
bind the sacrifice with cords,
even unto the horns of the altar.
Glory be to Thee for the visible light :
the sun's radiance, the flame of fire ;
day and night, evening and morning ;
for the light invisible and intellectual :
that which may be known of God,
that which is written in the law,
oracles of prophets,
melody of psalms,
instruction of proverbs,
experience of histories
a light which never sets.

By Thy resurrection raise us up
unto newness of life,
supplying to us frames of repentance.
The God of peace, that brought again from the dead
our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
make us perfect in every good work to do His will,
working in us that which is well pleasing in His sight,
through Jesus Christ; to Whom be glory for ever and ever.


Lancelot Andrews, Morning Prayer


From A Sunlit Room

It is short, unpolished
Like a child's first, faltering steps
But truly, honestly,
I hope it brings
A smile.

You both have spent
A tiring week, and feel stretched
"Like butter over
Too much bread."

And so, from this bright and sunlit room
I wish and hope
The Light of these thoughts
To be with you.

The smell of fresh lavender
And warmth of the gentle sun
The calm of a new morning
and hope of the risen Son.

I'd call or bring you a Starbucks
For at least a moment's worth of companionship
Yet fettered as I am by
Distance, time, and illness
I cannot offer more than this.

A prayer for rest - body and spirit
Offered in love for you, my friends.


Lamott On Writing and Books

On Writing

Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up grow and belong.

As a writer [...] hope begins in the the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.

I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is craked up to be. But writing is. Writins has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do - the actual act of writing - turns out to be the best part. [...] The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.
On Books

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What amiracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we arer and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird



Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away...

We didn't fly, but we did next best thing - we rode our bikes. It was a beautiful day, just a little above 70 degrees, clear blue skies, with a breeze that made our hair fly around our faces. We went all over town. Down to Barnes and Noble, to the library, Starbucks, and then home again. I sang Sinatra out loud. It was a perfect day.

The Starbucks barista smiled and asked us, "Are you twins?"

Holding our Izze drinks, we looked at each other.
"Um. No. Three and a half years apart."

"How old are you?"

We turned the question back on her, "How old do you think we are?"

"You look like twelve year-old twins!"

We couldn't help collapsing in laughter. We told her our ages - seventeen and fourteen. We kept on laughing as we purchased our drinks and walked into B&N. I'm not sure if she believed us.

On our way out, Jacqueline nudged me, "At least I'm only two years off..."

Weather-wise it was such a lovely day
Come fly with me, we'll fly, we'll fly away.


From the Photo Library

She said to post the sixth photo from my sixth folder. Oh, the memories.

And because my siblings were (still are!) so cute, here's another one from the same folder.

We were dressing up for a rendition of The Three Little Pigs... and their brother.


Gentle Mercies

It's raining outside, quiet raindrops falling onto the earth like gentle mercies. I'm in PA at the beautiful Odell home, the second part of my vacation. I spent last week with Katie Beth and her wonderful family, came here to the Odells, and on Saturday I'm off to my Northern Cali. home to celebrate the graduation of my sister-friend, Madelaine. I love every minute of this trip.

This trip has been rather different from all my past vacations, confirming the worries that I had tried to keep at the back of my head. Stubborn pains and rashes just won't go away, and the pain increases rather than decreases as time goes. Yet through the discomfort, I have had my dear friends encouraging me. Katie Beff, Shans, text messages and emails from others. I felt like I was at home with the Groovers and the same here with the Odells. 

These gentle mercies keep on falling, falling. 

Bless the Lord, oh my soul.
And all that is within me, bless His Holy name. 
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction;
And crowneth thee with lovingkindness and gentle mercies.
Psalm 103



The evenings have been mixtures of salt tears and bewildered prayers. Even the mornings lost their refreshing light for a bit, they just brought the unwelcome news of another day. Suspended between an end and a beginning, I waited. There were bits of joy and sunshine in between, but it was not a season of brightness. It was a season of stillness, facing the silence of doubts, pain, and hopes.

I waited.

And as I did and walked around with stumbling steps, something changed. A brokenness just permeated into every aspect of my life. And I waited and prayed for the calm sunshine of healing grace. It didn't come. And somewhere between tears and headaches, eventually I came to a realization. The equivalence of healing and brokenness. This time healing didn't come in gentle rays, it came as brokenness. God's love was - is still - healing me with this pain. This season of stillness, as much as I do not and cannot understand it, is part of His sanctifying love.

The Love that moves the sun and the other stars...


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