Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Coming and Going

Christmas Eve

Be still, then, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations;
   I will be exalted in the earth.  Psalm 46:11

The photo arrives as a gift in my inbox with a subject line of Outrageous. I am immediately captivated. In response to something I have written, my friend has sent me his own encounter with the outrageousness of God. I know him to be a traveler, and I surmise that he has taken the photo from an airplane.

I return to the photo again and again, drawn to follow the spears of light that pierce the skyscape. 

Only later do I discover the context, the where and when. In the miracle of modern technology, he actually sent the email immediately after taking the photo: from 35,000 feet while in flight. Traveling west he writes, “The dawn is catching up to us from the east.”

We stand at the brink now, where the dawning is about to greet us anew even though that morning is a thousand years behind us. The light of Christ will pierce our hearts. Again. We will meet ourselves coming and going. God will be outrageously there. We only need a moment to be still. And know.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013  Photo credit: Jeffrey Kemmerer

Monday, December 23, 2013

Burst of Speed

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

So will I always sing praise of your Name,
   and day by day I will fulfill my vows.  Psalm 61:8

“Med-i-tate! Med-i-tate! We’re rooting for you!” My oldest daughter cheers me on exuberantly. I cannot help but laugh out loud.

While I treasure the solitude in which I sink into intimate conversation with Jesus, I know better than to relegate the holy to such specificity. On a good day, I am mindful of God’s playfulness woven into the impossible swarm of daily activity. If I can only pray in the quiet moments, I’m in big trouble.  After all, I am surrounded. By the detritus of wrapping paper and unsent greeting cards, the enthusiasm of adolescent expectation, the unceasing traffic of commerce in the city in which I live.

God must be in all these places. The manger might be around any corner along any street. 

Perhaps we all need to cheer each other on as we head toward Bethlehem, as we put on a last burst of speed, round the final turn, and run full out toward home.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Small Pleasures

The Feast of St. Thomas
Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

The Lord shall watch over your going and your coming in,
   from this time forth for evermore.  Psalm 121:8

It is the first day of the winter break and I drop my daughter off at school at 7:00am.  The band leadership has been asked to report early; today they pack their instruments and have a final rehearsal before their trip to the Rose Parade in a few days.

No one else in our house is awake; we were out late last night at a show and I am sure my morning quiet time will be extended. As I drive back through town, on a whim I make a detour toward the deli. Fresh bagels sound just like what my household needs.  Though I am a tea drinker, I know we are out of coffee at home and I talk the deli owner into selling me some of his own ground coffee. I smile as I anticipate some very grateful people at my house.

These small things give me pleasure; driving my daughters to places they need to be, providing unsought-for indulgences for my family, imagining another’s happiness.

There is so much going and coming in our house; anything I can do to ease the way seems important work. Because my own way has already been eased by the one who loves me like no other. The one whose love is once again about to burst onto the scene with celestial lights and fanfare trumpets. The one whose love makes all love possible.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Giving in

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
   many shall see, and stand in awe, and put their trust in the Lord.  Psalm 40:3

I look at the scattered papers on my desk and realize I am not going to finish the tasks they represent before I leave work. It is time to go home.

Suddenly, I am impatient to be on my way. The sky is already beginning to darken, as we are fast approaching the longest night of the year. I yearn for home because family is visiting and for the first time in I can’t remember how long, none of us has to be anywhere this evening. Dinner will not be rushed. No one will have to head out into the cold and dark. We can finish watching the movie we started a few nights ago.

As I begin to clean off my desk, I choose a Christmas playlist and turn up the volume on my computer. Let the carols roll. Although the final days of Advent are yet to be traversed, I acknowledge the gift of joy that God has already begun to unwrap in my heart.

I choose to let the unfinished business be. I give into the delight of looking forward to the evening ahead and to a certain manger even now beginning to fill with promise.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Minding the Good

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving
   and make good your vows to the Most High.  Psalm 50:14

“Shoot,” I say to my daughter, “look at that traffic.” 

“Don’t worry, it’s all good,” she replies.

Strategizing over which route will move us along most efficiently, I choose one lane over another. “I chose the wrong lane,” I grumble, as the traffic next to me begins to move quickly.

“Yeah, it’ll probably add three minutes to our trip,” she observes. “More like ten,” I counter impatiently. 

“But it’s all good,” my daughter says.

We pull into the parking lot, “This is so frustrating, I thought this was going to be a quick there and back trip.” I feel flustered and annoyed.

“It’s all good, Mom.”

And finally I hear her. I have been complaining. She sees that we are getting to where we need to be, and that all is well.

In the beginning, God looked at all of creation and saw that it was good. It is all good.

Gratitude is a choice. I vow to choose again.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Legacy of Hope

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

Remember your word to your servant,
  because you have given me hope.
This is my comfort in my trouble,
   that your promise gives me life.  Psalm 119:49-50

Fourteen degrees feels colder this morning than it did yesterday, and I make a second cup of tea just to have something warm in my hands. I snuggle into my favorite sweater as I pick up my journal to begin today’s conversation with Jesus.

As I wrap myself in prayer and contemplation, I also wrap myself in a warm afghan, a wedding gift a young girl crocheted for us twenty-five years ago. She was a student of mine, and I remember how honored and humbled I felt to receive such a gift. 

She would be a woman now, nearing forty, and I wonder what she is doing this morning. Would it surprise her to know her gift continues to bring me comfort and pleasure? That I think of her from time to time? Would she recognize her work as a legacy of her generosity and skill?

So many spread their blankets of hope upon the ground before me, enabling me to step out into the day looking for life and promise.

I finish my prayer, fold the afghan, and place it on the chair. Where it will be waiting for me tomorrow.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What's the Buzz

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

We have waited in silence on your loving kindness, O God,
   in the midst of your temple. Psalm 48:8

I am startled out of my contemplation by a sudden loud buzz. The dryer. I am surprised as well as disconcerted because the default setting in our house is to run the dryer with the signal turned off, so as not to be bothered by the nagging reminder of clothes that need attending. Folding can always wait.

I turn off the buzzer and return to my comfy chair, closing my eyes and breathing fully as I enter again into the silence I crave. Once again, I give myself permission to attend to the quiet. As many times as I have done this, I have to trust each time that it is the right move. 

So much vies for my attention. The emails that keep on coming. The impossible family calendar. The problems others would happily have me solve for them. The anxiety looking for any unwitting patron.

It takes some discipline for me to remember what is important. Prayer. Greeting friends joyfully. Focusing on the good of each day rather than the annoyances.

I choose again to wait in the silence, to trust that laying the groundwork of Advent is enough, to prepare myself for love.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Backing Down

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

Our heart never turned back,
   nor did our footsteps stray from your path.  Psalm 44:18

I recognize the sound a second before my brain identifies it: an engine revving as tires spin on ice. A school bus has foolishly attempted to maneuver the icy incline of the narrow street across from my house. I watch out my window as the driver stubbornly spins his wheels. It won’t work. He will need to make another choice. He will need to choose another way.

The bus is simply driving its regular route. But the detritus of this past weekend’s storm still makes some streets barely passable. Sometimes conditions require us to choose a path other than what is familiar to us. 

The bus finally escapes from its dilemma by carefully backing down the street. And once it does, it is able to move freely. Many other routes are certainly available for it to get to where it is going this morning.

And that is the key. God’s ways are many and diverse. When I spin my tires in my spiritual life, perhaps I need to try a different direction. Rather than stubbornly persisting with the path I have chosen, I can open my heart again to God—and infinite possibility. All backing down does, is to provide me with more options.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Beyond Disappointment

Saturday of the Second Week of Advent

Weeping may spend the night,
   but joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30:6

The final performance of my daughter’s high school play was snowed out last week. With grace and considerable effort, the fine arts faculty found a way to reschedule the final show—only for it to be cancelled again by threat of an incoming winter storm.

We are dealing with the disappointment better the second time around. Nevertheless, my daughter comments, “It had better be a monster storm or I am not going to be satisfied.” She doesn’t want the cancellation to be in vain.

As I listen to her, I find I have to guard myself: not from my own disappointment, but from a temptation to shelter my daughter from hers. As a parent I have had to sit on my hands at times to prevent myself from stepping in and solving my daughters’ problems for them. Sometimes it is hard to watch them struggle.

But to prevent the struggle, to guard them from disappointment, is to deny them something more vital: the capacity to overcome difficulty and the learned awareness that despair is not the end of the story.

Disappointment, failure, and grief are all landscapes that we traverse at times. Even on a journey toward hope. Even on the way to the manger. But in the manger itself—joy that knows no bounds.

Image credit: eve81 / 123RF Stock Photo 

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Friday, December 13, 2013

Propelling into the Center

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

Make your face to shine upon your servant,
   and in your loving-kindness save me. Psalm 31:16

Somehow in the candlelit church the girl’s face is illuminated. I notice her legs first, because she is subtly swinging them into the aisle. The space fills with the ancient stories and hymns of sacred tradition as the Advent liturgy moves through the evening.

Emboldened, the girl increases the arc of her swing, and then, with an artful look toward her parents, she lifts her three-year-old self on her arms and practically propels herself into the center of it all.

The singing of choir and congregation continues all around her, undisturbed by her display. Rather, her playfulness is gathered in, becoming part of the melody of praise as the story of salvation unfolds.

And then I see her face, joy radiating into the night, shining on any who will notice, and though I am far away, the face of Christ looks upon me and smiles.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What is in the Waiting

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

Be still before the Lord
   and wait patiently for him.  Psalm 37:7

I set out my work on my desk and open a folder to see my mother’s poem peeking out at me. I had forgotten that I had tucked it away there, carrying it home from a recent visit.

She wrote it the day we visited the art museum, verses about waiting and praying that captured like a snapshot part of a day we spent together.

Now, as I sit with her poem, an understanding unfolds for me that waiting is not empty time that needs to be filled. It has its own shape, its own rhythm, its own purpose. And I realize I do not always wait well. It is not that I am impatient when waiting—although sometimes that is true. It is that I have undervalued the act of waiting in and of itself. What would waiting well look like?

If a person can wait patiently—or impatiently—then all sorts of waiting must be available.  I can wait energetically, gracefully, ironically. I can wait with a sense of humor, or purpose, or style. I can wait in silence. I can wait in laughter. I can wait serenely, hungrily, openly.

So many ways to choose. So many ways to wait for God. So many ways to be expectant.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent

For in you, O Lord, have I fixed my hope;
   you will answer me, O Lord my God.  Psalm 38:15

We are two candles into Advent and I crave more light.

Yesterday I bought another strand of lights for the Christmas tree. There were enough lights, but I wanted an abundance. I wanted the lights to sparkle and wink and delight. I wanted the colors to dance on the walls in the evening hours and in the pre-dawn black.

I do not want to hurry the season. I do not want to lose even a single day of waiting in expectation. I do not long for the summer sun or the hot sand of a beach somewhere. Rather, I bask in the warmth of a soft sweater, savor the silence of early night, and relish the illuminations that reach out with encouragement and promise.

I want to see and yearn for the light that shines in the darkness.

Two candles lit. As the darkness lengthens, the hopefulness of the light expands, undaunted.

Image credit: solarseven / 123RF Stock Photo 
Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

God at Home

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent

Lord, I love the house in which you dwell
and the place where your glory abides.  Psalm 26:8

The phone rings just before my alarm goes off. A recorded message informs me the schools are closed—a storm is on its way. I look out my window, but there is no snow yet. I get up, make my tea, and settle in to pray. Already I am more relaxed in my prayer because there will be no morning bustle. Today will be a day at home.

Just outside my consciousness, I hear it. A subtle change in the sound of the traffic moving by my house. And sure enough, right on cue, the snow has begun. 

I offer thanks for the sanctuary of my house, a place to pray, to write, to work, to praise God.  And I am mindful of other homes that have recently ministered to me with occasions of hospitality. Lunch with a friend, as we lingered at her table drinking tea and savoring a friendship that has carried us through years and cares and joys. Thanksgiving at my parents’ house, though not the one in which I grew up, nevertheless containing the balm of familiar books and practices. Conversation with a mentor, as I sat on her couch absorbing words of challenge, comfort, and gentle wisdom. God dwells in the tent of all these encounters.

The sun rises, the snow continues to fall, and in my house God’s glory wraps me in the sureness of love.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

Branches Along the Path

Monday of the Second Week of Advent

All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness
   to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. Psalm 25:9

The glow of the streetlight illumines the snow-crusted branches highlighting the intricate lines and curves of the leafless tree outside my window.

The snow came faster and sooner and more abundantly than expected, and I know the beauty I contemplate is seasoned with delight and disappointment and danger. Nevertheless, I am captivated by this single tree.

I am drawn in by the patterns among, between and amidst the braches, negative space now come to the fore.  With my eyes I try to follow one path, tracing a twisting way as branch forks into smaller branch dividing again and again into final twig. The ways diverge with delightful intricacy, one starting point resulting in more combinations than I care to follow. All the paths are new to me. All belong to one tree. All their possibilities have been there all along, simply hidden by the foliage of another season.

And in the dance of the bare branches I see the way of God as well. The paths of the Lord diverge into more possibility than we can imagine. The paths of the Lord reach out in hope in any season. The paths of the Lord may lie hidden beyond our notice, but they are paths nonetheless. The paths of the Lord are many, and all are love and faithfulness.

God has invited me into this contemplation; I can’t wait to see where the next step will lead me.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Advent Cartwheels

Saturday of the First Week of Advent

For you will give him everlasting felicity
   and will make him glad with the joy of your presence.  Psalm 21:6

The moment I see the school bus ahead of me, I know I have made a grave miscalculation. School has just dismissed; I should have chosen a different route at this time of day.

I brake as the lights of the bus flash signaling that it is about to make a stop to let off passengers. I wonder how many stops it will make before I am able to turn onto another street. But thankfully, I am able to turn at the next block--only I had forgotten that this is the very street of the middle school itself. Now I am stuck. The light is green but traffic is at a standstill as young teens pour from the school and swarm across the streets ushered by crossing guards in bright green vests.

There is nothing for it. For a moment I contemplate making some kind of drastic U-turn to get out of the mess, but then I resign myself to patience. And just as I approach the intersection, I see him--the boy steps into the crosswalk and executes an outrageous cartwheel, backpack and all.

What a gift.  What would possess a middle-school boy to demonstrate such abandon, such non-conformity, such bliss? Having completed his gymnastic move, he continues nonchalantly on his way. No crowd around him, no fans egging him on, simply a boy enjoying himself.

He unknowingly brightens my heart. Christ as a twelve-year-old, doing cartwheels in the temple and astonishing the adults. 

The traffic eases and I continue on my way, giving thanks for obstacles that slow me down and remind me to notice joy.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Visit from Saint Nicholas

The Feast of Saint Nicholas
Friday of the First Week of Advent

You will show me the path of life
   in your presence there is fullness of joy,
   and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.  Psalm 16:11

“So, St. Nicholas made a visit,” announces my daughter with just a hint of irony.


“He left chocolate and everything.”

“Wow. How about that?”

My daughter and I are playacting. She knows I am the one who put the chocolate coins in her shoes for her to discover this morning. I know she knows, and she knows that I know she knows. But it is tradition. In our house, St. Nicholas always leaves chocolate coins in the shoes on his feast day.

When my daughters were very young, I wanted them to know St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, and the precursor to Santa Claus. I wanted them to know of his love for children and the poor, how he devoted himself to Christ by choosing to care for those who were sick and suffering, how he lived his life by loving others with courage and grace.

I wanted to introduce them to many saints, whose lives inspire us. Not because the saints were perfect; but because they were men and women, boys and girls who loved God and through that love were able to touch the lives of those around them in extraordinary ways. 

Having giving St. Nicholas his due, my daughter gives me a hug, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” I respond, grateful beyond words that my teenager offers me this gift of herself and knowing that St. Nicholas has truly visited us this morning.

Read more about St. Nicholas 

Image credit: Baloncici / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Thursday, December 5, 2013

All Times and Places

Thursday of the First Week of Advent

You, O Lord, are my lamp; 
  my God, you make my darkness bright.  Psalm 18:29

It is full night outside as I being to wash the dinner dishes. I pour a small amount of dish soap into the pan and then place it under the hot water faucet to fill. As I dip the sponge into the soap bubbles and begin to scrub, the pleasant lemony smell tickles my nostrils, and I am suddenly transported to a childhood visit to my grandmother’s house. I must have been ten or eleven. It was Christmas, and as a gift I had received a fancy glass bottle of bath oil. 

As I stand at my kitchen sink looking out into the darkness, I smell again that lemony bath oil and see instead my grandmother’s handsomely appointed bathroom with the tub filling. I experience the anticipation of one about to embark on a sophisticated venture. For a fleeting moment, I recapture the sensation of being a young girl on the verge of adolescence and am conscious of pride and reverence at having received an elegant gift.

One whiff of lemon evokes all this. I am humbled by the strength of memory that connects the haven of my kitchen with the sanctuary of my grandmother’s house and the gift of God that makes both moments accessible simultaneously. 

The darkness of the evening is dispelled by reminiscence and something more; the strength of God who makes all times and places one. The light shines on a young girl who smiles at her middle-aged self. And the stars in the crown of the King of kings light the way to a babe about to be born.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Under Construction

Wednesday in the First Week of Advent

Oh, that my ways were made so direct
   that I might keep your statutes! Psalm 119:5

I merge into the heavy traffic on the interstate and am pleased that it is moving at a good pace. However, the car in front of me slows, almost imperceptibly at first, but then significantly as we drop well below the speed limit. I am flummoxed. I don’t have time for this. There are groceries to buy, kids to pick up at two different locations, an errand to run. I have it all mapped out efficiently. I can get it all done. If only the traffic will pick up.

The car in front of me adroitly maneuvers into the passing lane revealing the obstacle to my speedy progress. A construction vehicle. Moving very slowly. I pull up close behind it and then realize this is not wise; I should probably give it more space. That’s when I notice the caution sign plastered in large bold letters across the back of the truck, “Construction Vehicle: Keep Alert for Sudden Stops and Turns.”

Keep alert. Of course, that is the Advent decree. And there are sudden stops and turns as we navigate our way simultaneously to the crèche and the second coming. Prophecies that draw us up short followed by words of comfort. Frantic preparations interrupted by moments of bliss and beauty. At times I think it would be lovely if someone would take over, direct my ways, so that I might follow Christ unswervingly. But I am a work in progress; my spiritual life is forever under construction.

Perhaps we are our own construction vehicles, always on our way to make repairs and improvements in our lives as we wend our way toward Christ.  It would behoove us to be mindful of each other, to treat one another – and ourselves - gently, because on this Advent journey anyone of us may need to stop, readjust, look again for the star of Bethlehem, the light with which God beckons us to love.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Joyful Expectancy

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you. Psalm 5:3

It is dark when I awake, but not as cold as it has been. I find it easier to arise, knowing that I won’t be chilled to the very bone before I make it to the bathroom. Even so, it is the morning discipline of prayer tugging at me that compels me to place my feet on the floor.

I am really not a morning person. But in a home shared with spouse and daughters, I find my solitude by being the first one up. When my daughters were young, I needed the quiet time to bolster myself for the onslaught of diapers and dressing and the gathering whirlwind that would inevitably push us all out the door into our day ahead, ready or not. Now, as the members of our household fend for themselves, I discover that Morning Prayer is not a survival tool, but something richer. Grounding in the daily course of scripture, prayer, and stillness before God prepares me to be watchful.

The watchfulness of Advent is a practice. It is not about exhaustive wakefulness or restless anxiety, but rather the exercise of joyful expectancy. And as I head into my day, the joy begins to unfold: an early morning email of encouragement from a far away friend, a hug and an “I love you” from my teenage daughter, a gorgeous fall leaf pressed into a letter. 

God is with us. God does accompany me on my day. Or rather I accompany God. Or it’s both and. The more I practice watchfulness, the more I see God in the daily.

Copyright Anne E. Kitch 2013

Monday, December 2, 2013

An Extraordinary Sign

Monday of the First Week of Advent

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me;
   you are my glory, the one who lifts up my head. 
Psalm 3:3

“Mom, did you see that sign?” my daughter pipes up as we are several hours into a long drive home after spending Thanksgiving with my parents. “No, I missed it,” I reply, curious as to what caught her attention.

“It said, ‘God is not boring!’ ”

“Well, you certainly can’t argue with that.”

For the past couple of days, I have been awakened by a sense of urgency. Advent is upon us and I don’t feel ready. I have braced myself, anticipating being slammed into the season unprepared.

In many ways, I am prepared. The Advent wreath at home is ready, waiting to be lit. Advent calendars have been purchased and sent to our Godchildren. I have a plan to place the candles in our windows that we light during this season. But it is the hopefulness for which I feel ill-equipped. Hope seems to elude me in the early morning hours, how can I enter this season of expectation?

Hey Mom, did you see the sign?

I wish for more signs. I wish for signs of joy for those suffering loss. I wish for signs of rest for the beleaguered, of abundance for the careworn, of kindness for the brokenhearted. I wish for signs of hope.

But the sign is there. God is certainly not boring. God is outrageous. God is inexhaustible. God not only shields me, but lifts up my head when I am unable to muster the energy or will or strength. How extraordinary.

Perhaps it is as simple as that. Perhaps it is as profound as that. It is Advent. A time of waiting for the coming. And Christ is coming. Again. And there is good news to share. Again.

And I choose hope. Again.

copyright © Anne E. Kitch 2013