Thursday, December 27, 2007


We went to the travel clinic at Miriam hospital for our shots for the Vietnam trip. In a word:


I had the worst of it, with 5 shots. (FIVE!)

I got typhoid, tetanus, measles, hepatitis A and the flu shot. Noah was also pretty bad, with three, including the dreaded tetanus, which makes your arm feel like it has a rock in it for a month.

Emmett handled his shots well, but then fainted afterwards, so we had to apply cold compresses and get him sugared up on ginger ale and lollipops. Nguyen had just 2 because his were still good from the last trip.

I have to say that I am starting to get very excited! We leave in 5 weeks and are starting to get all our ducks in a row. I am designating a spot in the guest room to start piling stuff. We have a long list of things we need for the trip, including deet and sunblock, imodium and electrolyte solution. Ear plugs and sleeping pills. Tee shirts and shorts and sandals. (Especially for me, as they won't have size 10.5 in Vietnam, LOL!)

We are beginning to pull together our itinerary, too, with a planned stop in Mui Ne on the way to Nha Trang.

Just can't wait!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Joy to the world! The Lord is come

Did it work for you? Did you wake up on the 4th Sunday of Advent and suddenly realize that the energy was shifting? It was right around Saturday when I began to see the Light at the end of the darkness.

A plan had been percolating in my head: We'd decorate the tree on Christmas eve. I bought a beautiful wooden Nativity set from Guatemala, complete with three cows, three kings and a baby Jesus as big as a cow. The children would unwrap it and set it on the mantle. My brother, mom and friends Tom and Donna were coming over to eat appetizers and light the 4 Advent candles and the wonderfully cheesy votive candle with the picture of the Holy Family I bought in the Spanish section of the grocery store.

It all went as planned. I cooked appetizers and baked cookies all day. Nguyen took a rare day off and helped clean the house and get ready. He chopped cabbage and carrots and wood ear mushrooms for his famously delicious egg rolls. The kids pulled out the boxes of decorations and spent the day stringing lights and hanging ornaments. In the end we had a tree with colored lights on the bottom, white lights on top, and no ornaments above 5 feet up. It turned out to be the most beautiful tree we have ever had.

I went, alone, the 2:00 service at Grace while Nguyen and the kids finished getting the house ready. It was quiet and beautiful. Fr. Rich preached a wonderful, heartfelt sermon that made me cry.

My plan of all appetizers was a hit! The food was delicious and simple. Before we dug in, I read a prayer I wrote. (Inexplicably, I couldn't find my Book of Common Prayer.)

It was a relaxed, funny, joyful and loving evening.

On Christmas morning, Nguyen got up and said "I feel like going to church." and since I was waiting for my family to come back, he went alone.

When my brother arrived, he asked where Nguyen was.

"At church", I said.



And suddenly, something shifted for my brother. Later he joked about it, calling Nguyen "Bible Boy" and worrying that my husband will try and evangelize him. In all his bluster, though, I know that he was pondering this new turn of events.

Later, when my mom arrived, we made a fabulous breakfast and had a wonderful conversation about religion, politics and just about everything else you aren't supposed to talk about. As I drove my mother to the airport, she said "that conversation was my Christmas wish. That we would all talk and listen and enjoy each other's company."

Seems like maybe we all got our wishes this year.

Praise to you, Lord Christ. Glory to you, Lord Christ.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


My father and stepmother have a beautiful tradition for Christmas.

Back when my grandfather was alive, he and my grandmother collected scallop shells on the beach near their cottage in Truro, Massachusetts. Grandpa carefully drilled tiny holes at the top and strung them, in pairs, on florist's wire to use as Christmas tree ornaments. They made dozens and dozens of them.

After both of my grandparents died, my father inherited the scallops. Somehow, he and my stepmother came up with a wonderful tradition. Each year they take a sharpie marker and inscribe the names of friends or relatives who have died during the year. Then they spend an evening putting up all the shells that have accumulated over the years. It is a very moving process. One by one, they read the name and talk about what that person meant to them. Plenty of tears flow. (Usually plenty of scotch, too, I think!)

Last year, in Newfoundland, I was part of this for the first time. I came across the name of my friend Gig, who had died a couple years before, during Holy week. And my granny. And other friends of the family. My mother in law. Even beloved pets.

In the midst of the tears, we had such joy at having known them.


I admit it. As a Christian, I have no idea what to do with Christmas. Not the religious piece. That part seems clear enough. We are in the midst of a penitential time of introspection and anticipation. We hear about John the Baptist on Sundays and go to confession. We examine our inner darkness and try to clear the way for the coming light. All that makes sense.

What doesn't make sense is how to do that while the world is screaming at you from every corner to

Have fun!!!!

Buy stuff!!!!

Buy more stuff!!!!

On SALE!!!

Back before I was a Christian, I loved the 'out in the world' version of Christmas. Nguyen and I would listen to sappy big band Christmas albums and go shopping at 2 am at whatever store was open. (Zayre's used to stay open all night in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Remember that, New Englanders?) We'd make hot apple cider and decorate the tree.

Maybe all of this is going to happen on Christmas Eve, from now on. As it is, we have had a tree since the Saturday after Thanksgiving... but haven't done anything more than string a simple string of white lights. No ornaments or star. No wreaths on the house. No lights on the bushes. It just doesn't seem right to be doing all that during Advent.

This is all so new to me, this oddball conjoining of the sacred with the profane. What do you, as a Christian, do with this? Your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

On the occasion of a Nor'Easter


When sin knocks at the door
Of my heart
Let me keep it closed, shut tight.

When Joy approaches
I will throw open the door
And invite Him in.

Friday, December 14, 2007


I have been thinking about the ways that God uses community to help us grow as Christians. Increasingly, I am grateful to be a part of a religious community like Grace church.

Being in community with others means that we get to practice being Christians. When difficulties in our own lives arise, we have people who are committed to helping us through them. When we see others in pain, we are called to extend a helping hand to them. It is powerful in both cases.

Nguyen and I have been worried about a congregant at Grace who is battling major health issues. We called his friend last week and invited them to the Wednesday evening Eucharist. They came. When the priest brought communion to my friend in the pew, I was overcome with joy because I felt so sure that he is no longer alone in this struggle. Not only is he bound to Christ with this rite, but all of us are bound together through it. Together, we face his challenges, losses, fears. Together we support him through this painful time.

During Advent, I have been struggling some painful issues of my own. Things that I wanted to hide and keep secret. But gently, God offered me a way to open them up and expose them to the light. He gave me a way out. He gave me a spiritual friend. A Godparent. The sacraments of communion and confession. The words of Thomas A Kempis. A community of people who love me, and whom I love. God gave me all these things to remind me that I never have to struggle alone with my sins and fears.

2 years ago I sat in the Rector of Grace Church's office and told him all the things I disliked about his church. I told him that I was unhappy, but that God was calling me to stay. I confessed that I was none too pleased about it, but that I would stick it out as long as I felt God was asking me to be there.

Yesterday I called him to tell him how grateful I am to be a part of Grace Church's community. Miracles are happening. Love is abounding. Blessings are everywhere. I thanked him for his leadership and his willingness to let the Holy Spirit be in charge.

Miracles are happening.

Thanks be to God.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Messiah

It is a spectacular experience, seeing The Messiah live for the first time. It is true that I have gone to Messiah sings for the last few years, but this year we scored tickets to the sold out production put on by the Providence Singers and the RI Philharmonic. It was a gorgeous production.

For me, it was almost like seeing David Bowie for the first time. I actually wept a little hearing my favorite pieces performed live. For years now I have been listening to the Bernstein version of The Messiah on a more or less endless loop in my car. I can sing all the words, I know all the music parts, I play bits of it on the piano. So, when the orchestra began playing Sinfonia, I felt tears streaming down my cheeks.

Since my children know the score so well themselves, after years of hearing it in my car, I think I will bring them next time. I am sure they will love it.

Thank you Handel.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Wednesdays at Grace

I have already mentioned that we have a beautiful sung service at Grace on Wednesdays. This week I invited my husband, kids and a friend to join me. They did. The kids were remarkably un-squirmy... even when Noah lost a tooth right in the middle of the homily and started bleeding all over the place. It was a heroic effort, but he got through to the end without distracting everyone around us. (The tooth fairy will pay extra for that, I think!)

But here's the thing: Nguyen took communion. I tried not to make too much of a fuss, but truly, I wanted to blubber like a baby when he came up with us. Afterwards I jokingly asked if he felt a lightening bolt from the blue. No. But it turns out he has been praying every day.

I am so grateful.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Advent is upon us.

I am a couple of days late, but today I went to the church supply place here in town and bought some simple purple votive glasses for an Advent wreath. I placed them on a round glass plate scattered with seashells. The candles themselves are white. It is spare and lovely.

I also picked up another copy of the Imitation of Christ. I think that will be my Advent reading for this year. I loaned out my other copy awhile ago and now would like my friend to keep it.

This morning at bible study, we began with the Advent lessons for next Sunday. I read Isaiah 11 and admit, I couldn't get through it without tears.

A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.


For all you are, for all you have given us, and for all you promise, I am thankful.