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Guest Author: 
Lauren Carlson

And don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter.
It’s quiet, but the roots down there are riotous.
                                       —Rumi

January in Southwest Minnesota is cold, dark, and covered in snow. The barren white landscape contrasts the lush greenery of corn and soybean fields in summer. Behind my house is a small backyard orchard with four apple trees, two pear trees, and a plum tree. In this season, my fruit trees are as barren and empty as the surrounding snow-covered fields.

Guest Author: 
Sascha Hjort Nielsen

December is the most miraculous time of year for me. It is a time that is filled with joy and laughter everywhere I turn, and that is exactly why I have feared this month.

I have not felt joy nor happiness when waking up in the morning in a long time. I have felt lonely and hopeless. I feared the thought of facing the energy that December holds because it felt impossible for me to be present with any sort of happy emotion. Everyone around me seems to suddenly be in a romantic relationship with people that adore them. I was afraid that I would see others being happy as proof of my loneliness and absolute misery.

Guest Author: 
Carissa A. Kane

Life is grace.
—Frederick Buechner

Since the beginning of time, the grace of God has been showered upon us and risen up from within, extending beyond us. That is the beauty of grace. It is boundless and ever-present. Whether we recognize and behold it or not, it is always available. It finds us and waits patiently for us to be open and allow ourselves to be embraced or to bathe in it.

Guest Author: 
Jean Wise

How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?

—Dr Seuss

I flipped the calendar at the beginning of the month. Where did November go? How did 2015 disappear so quickly? Didn’t we just pack away those holiday decorations, and now it’s time to haul them all out again?

Time fascinates me. When I pause to pay attention to its mysterious fleeting passage, I am surprised. I know in my brain the tick of each second is unswerving and constant, but time’s movement seems inconsistent to my heart. 

Guest Author: 
Carissa A. Kane

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.
—Jeremiah 29:11

I recall a conversation a number of years ago around the subject of patience. I remember saying with frustration, “I am being patient! I’m getting tired of it though. How long do I need to be patient!?” The person with whom I was speaking began to chuckle. I remember looking at him and asking him why he was laughing. He responded, “Not knowing how long is part of being patient.”

Guest Author: 
Lauren Burdette

As I was contemplating awe, my five-year-old son drew a picture of a large, multi-colored, sparkling hand with a small stick figure beside it and the letters WOW.

“It’s God’s hand,” he said. “See how it is full of magic?”
“It’s beautiful!” I replied. “And who is that?”
“It’s just a person. See how they’re saying wow?”

Thank you, my wise child, for teaching me about awe. When we are graced with those glimmers of God’s hands in the world, the places where presence breaks through, we are just people saying “wow.”

Guest Author: 
Janice Lynne Lundy

I believe a universal call has been sounded to live in an enlightened new way. No matter what culture or religious background we come from, affirming our innate “holiness” and embracing it is at the core of our spiritual journeys. When we profess our desire to live in a sacred manner, to be more peaceful, openhearted, trusting faithful, and generous, our journey deepens, bringing about profound healing. When we recognize that we are sons and daughters of the universe, made of spirit and stardust, our lives will become sanctified, made holy and whole once again.

Guest Author: 
Tessi Muskrat Rickabaugh

I officiated my sister's wedding last month, wearing my grandmother's ring and a stole that bears the name of my tribe and clan in the Cherokee language. I spoke Irish words, prayers that reflect the love and honor with which my people—Cherokee and Irish—approach the world. I stood as the intentional embodiment of our legacy of faith and love and pain.

My father didn't attend the wedding. I'm not certain he's aware that the last of his daughters married the love of her life this summer; he cut her out of his life almost two years ago, as he has two of my other siblings. As his mother did him.

Guest Author: 
Jean Wise

The rejection letter shattered our dreams.

When my husband, Bill, and I were much younger, he interviewed for school administration positions as he pursued his aspiration of becoming a principal. We waited to start a family to know where we might settle and what was next on God’s agenda for us. We waited and waited for three years for the big break to come along.

We thought he finally made it. He was called back for two more interviews and we knew the school board had narrowed the list to just two people—my husband was one of them. Then the letter came. They chose the other candidate.

The following year, Bill did get his break, starting his school administration career that lasted more than thirty years. But it took about ten years before we discovered a hidden blessing in that earlier heart-breaking rejection.

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