The Stillness of a Snowy Christmas

Wishing you a blessed and peace-filled Christmas!

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(You) could’ve swept in like a tidal wave
or an ocean to ravish our hearts
You could have come through like a roaring flood
to wipe away the things we’ve scarred
But you came like a winter snow
quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
to the earth below
No, your voice wasn’t in a bush burning
No, your voice wasn’t in a rushing wind
It was still
It was small
It was hidden
Winter Snow
[Chris Tomlin/Audrey Assad]

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Is it December? (Er, I mean “It’s December!”)

dsc05371It IS December! It’s been December for almost two weeks and I’ve been doing December things, just not blogging about it. I’ve been “M.I.A.” while rejoicing in the arrival of Advent, accompanying hubby on a tree-finding outing, digging through storage boxes for Christmas decorations, beginning the traditional baking spree, writing notes and addressing envelopes — all those seasonal activities that accompany the anticipation of “the most wonderful time of the year.”

This Christmas our entire family, including several dogs, are coming here to celebrate with us! It will be a faith-filled, festive, and perhaps somewhat chaotic holiday together.

Given the snowstorms here this past week and now the forecast for two weeks of frigid sunshine, there is every possibility that it will be a White Christmas, too. What more could one hope for on our usually balmy west coast?

That’s a timely question. What is our hope this Christmas … indeed, every Christmas? Throughout Advent we wait for the miracle of God’s coming, both as a babe in the manger and again in our time. Why? What are our expectations? A good question to ponder as we prepare our homes and our hearts for Christmas.

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 Hope is a star that shines in the night,
leading us on till the morning is bright.
When God is a child there’s joy in our song.
The last shall be first and the weak shall be strong,
and none shall be afraid.
Joy is a song that welcomes the dawn,
telling the world that the Saviour is born.
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Written and Photographic Snapshots

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During my blogging absence over the past month I’ve taken an uncountable number of snapshots — hundreds of them — with my camera and iPhone.

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It makes me smile to remember a trip our family took in 1980 when, despite feeling significant guilt, I clicked through nineteen rolls of 35 mm film over the nine weeks’ journey. It was extravagant, but it was unlikely I would ever make that same trip again and I wanted to record every memory regardless of the cost.

Our first digital camera was a gift when my hubby retired in 2003. At first I was inhibited by the limitless opportunity of  amazing photographic freedom. It took a while to accept that I could depress my finger as often as I wanted and there would be no cost attached to any of my ‘mistakes’. One click recorded something; a different click deleted it; a third click printed it, but only if I desired an ‘hard copy’… and because I purchased photo paper in quantity, even that cost was negligible.

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I’ve been told the difference between an average photographer and a good one is in the number of discarded photos. Savvy photographers don’t display their mediocre shots. My laptop’s photo folder says it currently holds 6,874 pictures. On my desktop computer in the office there are 18,246 more, and that doesn’t account for the files saved on disks and memory cards. I don’t suppose a dozen of them are what I would call really good shots, but I keep all their files, just because I can. The only person besides me who likes to browse through them is my eight-year-old granddaughter and she doesn’t seem to care about quality. She likes revisiting the scenes, as do I.

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One advantage of keeping all of them is having a ready source of something to use in a blog post or add to the collages I like to create for inspiration while writing my novels.

Writers have various means of encouraging their creativity. Some have rituals they follow before settling into a writing session — maybe preparing a cup of tea, lighting a scented candle, turning on favourite music, or setting out a particular talisman.

One of my favourite go-to blogs is Writer Unboxed, and recently it ran a post about using a collage to create a snapshot of your novel. It turns out, I’m not the only one whose creativity gets a boost from visual stimulation. For each of my novels I’ve put together storyboards with photos, graphics and other items that reflect aspects of the plot. Some of the references might seem nebulous to someone unfamiliar with the developing story, but there is value to me in the artistic endeavour of assembling the collage. On the few occasions when I begin to bog down part way through the story, I stop writing and return to the collage, searching out new bits and building them into the existing collection until my enthusiasm for writing returns.

It’s almost as effective as taking a walk in the woods or beside the lake or seashore with my camera in hand. 🙂

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If you’re a storyteller, what techniques do you have for maintaining your writing momentum? 

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“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

[Ecclesiastes 3:11a]

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Writing in Summer Solitude

Last spring author Debra Purdy Kong blogged about her need for solitude. She said, “scientific research has shown that creative people need solitude. An article in Quartz revealed what many of us writers have known for some time. Solitude has nothing to do with being bored or being lonely. In fact, it’s an essential component for any type of creativity.”

DSC09480The creative person’s desire for solitude isn’t limited to summer, but for many of us that’s the time we’re most likely to find some. School’s out. Organizations put their meetings on hiatus. Employees take their vacations. It’s the best time to escape … or, at least, that’s what we seem to think. Maybe we’re brainwashed to believe that, when we should really be looking for periods of solitude throughout the entire year — any time our well of inspiration is in need of replenishment.

A solitary stroll on an crisp fall morning or a snowy weekend evening might be all it takes to let fresh ideas break through what I call a cotton batten brain. A rainy day spent at the museum or art gallery does it for some, while others find refreshment pouring through shelves in a library or bookstore. Personally, I’d never turn down the opportunity to spend an hour in any season, sitting on a log at the beach or by the lake, emptying the mind to ready it for refilling.

My writerly sub-conscience needs that, but so too does my spirit. Solitude and stillness help me open myself to God and let peace and renewal seep in.

I saw this graphic on the (in)courage website recently with the words, “May you have the chance to be still, to hear His voice in the quiet spaces.” I’ve borrowed it to use here as a summertime reminder. I’ll be absent from the internet during portions of August as I focus on experiencing stillness and refreshment, and on redirecting my creative efforts. I hope you’ll make time to do the same.

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It’s NOT Christmastime yet!

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Thanks to those merchants who begin their Christmas marketing before Hallowe’en is over, it’s easy to be duped into thinking we need to keep in step with them and start our own preparations earlier every year.

I love everything about Christmas — celebrations of holiday and holiness along with the preparations, family festivities and traditions. What I don’t like is pushing aside our Canadian Thanksgiving, Remembrance/Veterans Day, and American Thanksgiving in a rush to dig out the creche, Christmas ornaments and coloured lights.

The one exception in our household is when we bake our Christmas fruitcakes six weeks before Christmas. The whole family gets involved, and for that one day, carols provides a backdrop to the measuring, stirring and wonderful baking aroma. But just for that one day.

(Oh, all right, I suppose I also have to admit we bought a poinsettia at the church’s Christmas Bazaar this past weekend. It’s a HUGE event and is always held the third weekend of November. Any later and it would conflict with Advent.)

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A friend reminds me every year that Christmas Eve is soon enough to put up her tree and bring out the few treasured ornaments that will remain in place through the twelve days of Christmas and come down after Epiphany. I don’t argue with her because her tradition is reasonable.

Do I wait until Christmas Eve? Certainly not! The older I get, the faster time passes, so I find it necessary to embrace all of Advent and the twelve days of Christmas to ensure I have adequate time to prepare myself and absorb all the special joys of the holy season.

However, I wait until after my American friends have celebrated their Thanksgiving Day. When the following Sunday ushers in Advent, then I’m set to move ahead into Christmas preparations. Then and only then! Our outside lights will go on to remind neighbours that we’re looking forward to celebrating the birth of Him who is the Light of the world. The miniature porcelain village will be unpacked along with the creche, and by the next weekend we’ll be hunting for the perfect tree.

It’s important to respect each special occasion, and I think it’s difficult to focus properly on their history and true significance if we are rushing past in anticipation of what will follow. So no, it’s not Christmastime quite yet.

This week I join in wishing my American friends a very blessed Thanksgiving.

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Giving thanks always for all things
unto God and the Father
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ

[Ephesians 5:20]

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