My Candle Wish for the New Year


As I sat down to have my coffee this morning, I found myself staring at the words on the back of my badger crest mug, the traits of the house. Loyalty, kindness, honesty, friendship. As this year starts to see itself out with all its difficulty tonight, I shall light my candle and place it on the porch table again, just as I did at Winterdark (winter solstice), to lend its light to the night as the year slips around the corner. But, as I looked at my mug, I found myself composing my wish. I don’t think it breaks the rules to tell you what this wish and, ultimately, prayer is, as it is for you. For all of us.

I wish you Loyalty, dear Reader. I wish you the loyalty of chosen family, of the dear ones and neighbors with whom you have surrounded yourself and built your little world. I wish you the loving loyalty of any blood family who has stood by you in all and sundry. But, most of all, I wish you the loyalty of empathy, of someone who is as willing to put themselves into your shoes and walk that mile with you (or carrying you) as you would be in your turn. I guess that wish also places a responsibility on you and me, but…that is how it works, isn’t it?

I wish you Kindness, the kind of kindness that wells up from unknown places, the action that springs forward without second-thought or consideration. I wish you the kind of kindness that comes naturally along with the willingness to accept it from others. May you receive kindness without the burden of “paying it back” settling on your shoulders and soul. May you give kindness without the disappointment of expecting reciprocation. I wish you kindness without strings, ribbons, or tags. May you give and receive it in free measure in the coming year, each to each as the moment calls for.

I wish you Honesty, dear heart. I wish you the honesty to admit when things are hard. I wish you the ability to be honest about when you don’t know what to do, what to say, or how to feel. I wish you the honesty to sit in the discomfort without the need to fix things or make it better because, frequently, that is not what we or others need. I wish you the honest boundaries when you cannot take on any more emotional weight and to be able to say so. I wish you the brave honesty to admit when what you are feeling needs more than a “self-care day” or when your sadness needs more than just “a nappy-nap or a snack to get yourself right”. I wish you the honesty to reach out your hand in your struggling and say, “I need help.” And when someone else says so to you in their own desperate turn, I wish you the honesty to see their hurt and their pain, keep trite sympathy behind your teeth, and walk with them in that hard place to their needed next step. I wish you the honesty you need in the moments you face.

Finally, I wish you Friendship. I wish you the type of friendship that rings or texts your phone in the middle of dinner to check in on you, just because. I wish you the type of friendship that holds sacred space for you all to speak into and be heard. I wish you the type of friendship that provides a balm for the hidden wounds you are carrying and recognizes when you just do not have it in you to be effusive. I wish you the quiet friendships that are always there and do not require you to be “on” all the time, but allow you to flop into the pathetic little potato (or, as Gemma Correll puts it, “permanently exhausted pigeon”) you need to be at times. I wish you the soft hands required when your dear one comes to you with their wounds needing tending. When I think of deep, abiding friendship, often the spoken words of Sara Bareilles’s song “You Matter to Me” come back:

I hope someday, somebody wants to hold you for twenty minutes straight
They don’t pull away, they don’t look at your face
[…] All they do is wrap you up in their arms and hold on tight without an ounce of selfishness in it
[…] I hope you become addicted to sayin’ things and having them matter to someone.

I wish you to be able to be the friend that is needed and to have the friendship that you need, dear Reader.

As 2021 turns the far corner and 2022 peeks around the near one, I wish all of these things for you. I wish you these pillars that hold us up in the hard times. As I light the candle tonight and set it against the darkness amidst the turning of the world, I pray that you will feel a warmth…somehow, somewhere…and you will know it to be someone who cares about you. I wish you the gentlest of New Years, dear one. May it be blest.

Advent 2021: The Beginning of Christ (Christmas Eve)


Despite the well-known Christmas song, we can be fairly certain that the night that Jesus was born was anything but quiet. Between a city full of people, a stable full of animals, a sky full of angels, and a woman full of pain, “silent” was likely not a word one would have used to describe that night in Bethlehem. And yet, into all that noise, the Lion of Judah came in the form of a tiny, squawling, lambsoft baby. In the midst of her exhaustion, I imagine that Mary cuddled him close, using what she had learned from helping her cousin Elizabeth to clean, swaddle, feed, and rock her holy son to sleep, her lamb slumbering in a manger. Amidst all the clamor of that night, this most important of events was definitely not center-stage, but, tonight on Christmas Eve, we celebrate it first and foremost. We celebrate the work of Christ that was begun on that night in a solitary stable and ended on a seemingly hopeless hill 33 years later. Tonight, as Advent ends, we celebrate Christmas’s beginning. We have expected, we have prepared, and now we rejoice.

Let Heaven and Nature sing, joy to the world. The Lord has come.

Merry Christmas to you all, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.

Art by Jay Bryant Ward

Advent 2021: How Great Our Joy


My mother’s favorite Christmas carol is “Joy to the World”. Joy to the world! The Lord has come! This is one of few triumphant traditional Christmas hymns. Most of them are songs of hope and expectation, but this one…oh, this one! This is a song of celebration! Of adulation of God’s plan accomplished, of the banishment of sorrow, and the raining down of blessing. It is a song of literal joy, both in its tone and in its directive.

As Advent comes to a close this week with the beginning of Christmas, let’s allow ourselves some joy. In the midst of all that must still be done, let’s pause and breathe and let joy glow within us, no matter what form it takes.

As I put my daughter to sleep recently, I sat on the edge of her bed and, before I could sing her a lullaby, my mind cast itself back into my childhood Christmases — the concerts, the programs, the recitations — and, automatically, a familiar childhood voice began to remind me of just what Christmas is all about: “And there were, in the same country, shepherds abiding in the fields…” As a child, I memorized this section of Luke 2 through Linus’s recitation in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Charlie Brown, frustrated by his seeming failure at Christmas, demands to know just what Christmas was all about, and so Linus tells him. As I recalled his smile at “I bring you tidings of great joy…a Savior which is Christ the Lord”, I felt my heart swell with that self-same joy. And I found myself wanting to linger there in that silence, in what Shakespeare calls the “perfectest herald of joy”. 

As we embark upon the beginning of Christmas week and celebrate the work commenced by Christ’s birth, in all the hustle and bustle, let us not lose sight of the joy — both silent and exultant — that filled that corner of the world and Heaven on that night. If we allow it, it can overflow our hearts today. Let Heaven and nature sing: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.

As you move into Christmas, dear Friends, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Card image by Hallmark

Advent 2021: Love is Not a Moment, It’s Movement


As children we are often taught that love is a noun, an idea, an emotion. I prefer to believe–and teach myself, my daughter, and my students–that love is actually a verb. An action. A choice. Love is not only what we feel. Love is actually what we do. We love others through the choices we make. Choices to do what will help, uplift, and encourage them, and not to tear them down. Love is in our doing, not merely in our feeling. 

    Throughout Advent we do many things. We decorate houses, trees, lawns, gingerbread cookies and cottages, and cakes. We take family pictures and send out Christmas cards. We buy and wrap a gaggle of gifts for a plethora of people. We go skating and to Christmas, parties, markets, and concerts. In all of this doing, though, are we leaving room for doing in love? Are we holding space for the sweet little acts and services that we can lovingly perform? 

How can we verb Love in this Christmas season when so much can feel dark and grim? How can we live out Jesus and show Him to those around us, folding His name into the work of our hands as well as the words of our mouths? Often we forget that moving and doing in love can be the small, simple things and not only the grandiose gestures. A little card left in your mailbox thanking you for the beautiful lights display that you worked through that blustery day to put up. The cookies that you baked and gently left for your neighbors. That perfect sweater you found for your child that just makes them smile all over. Love in action leads us to Love as Life Practice. And as Advent moves us through this season of expectation and preparation, may Love be the guiding star that is leading us to the joy and glory that is Christ Jesus.

As Paul Williams so brilliantly wrote–and Robin the Frog so beautifully sang–in his song “Bless Us All”, “Let us always love each other. Lead us to the light” (The Muppet Christmas Carol).

Advent 2021: Peace in the Small Spaces


It is early morning as your eyes open. You can see the square of light around the curtains, lending just enough light to see the room by. No one and nothing else is stirring yet, and the world is quiet. As you lie there–not moving yet–in that moment before your brain can begin to work, there is utter calm. It is that Christmas morning anticipation or the feeling of lingering in a sweet dream. It is what feels like the rarest of moments these days: a peaceful one.

Our world is one in turmoil, off-balance–unequal, inequitable, at odds and conflict constantly. Peace often feels like an ephemeral dream, untouchable, ungraspable, unattainable. But it is not so dire. Often peace is a moment, not a movement. Sometimes where we find peace is not always the same place. Sometimes peace is found in a glass of lemonade on a shady summer porch. Sometimes it is found in the paragraphs and pages of an often-read book or one’s favorite Bible verses. At times, it is found in the early-morning stillness or the late-night settled quiet. Peace may be ushered in by candles and quiet prayers, a dog’s snuffly cuddle, or a child’s loving hug.

As we move through this Advent season, let us not overlook the small, slow moments and slices of peace in our rush to make Christmas what we think it should be. As it says in Romans, God is willing to fill us with His peace, if we are willing to trust and hope in Him. Let us be willing to pause in all our going to remember Christ’s coming and arrival. Let us rest in quiet, just as Mary and Joseph were made to rest in the simple stable into which He was born. As we arrange our Nativities on mantle pieces, tables, and shelves, let not forget one of the dearest names for our Lord: the Prince of Peace.

He will hold us in that peace, in those moments, and speak His whispers of love into our hearts. This Christmas season, things may still feel a little unsteady, not yet “normal”. Even in that difference, peace can be found. It can be found here our places of worship and reflection, in the music, the prayers, and silent worship. In the remembrance that God has never left you alone. Not for a moment, even the darkest ones. He is here to fold us in close, hold us in His peace, and give us hope that continues beyond Christmas.

= = =

Right now, She Reads Truth is offering this beautiful 8×10 art print that reads “I Will Provide Peace in This Place”. A gorgeous, loving reminder for the entire year round. Gift orders placed by Dec. 7 will be shipped in time for Christmas.

https://www.shopshereadstruth.com/products/peace-in-this-place-art-print

*I am in no way partnered with She Reads Truth. This was just a lovely coincidence. ^_^

Advent 2021: The Light of Hope


It seemed impossible to fathom that 2021 could be harder than 2020 in any way and yet…it is easy to see that it has surpassed all those non-expectations. In many ways, 2021 has proven indelibly harder on our hearts, minds, and bodies than the previous year. In that difficulty, hope has often seemed to wane. As we enter this season of Advent, of preparation and arrival, let us not allow despair and difficulty to rob us of that most blessed gift: hope. 

Hope is an everyday treasure. In Neil Gaiman’s famous series The Sandman, two characters have a contest, a seemingly simple game but with dire stakes.  It is The Oldest Game, a game of imagination with each character trying to best the other, to come up with the Final Idea.

One character claims, “I am the dark, the end of everything. The end of universes, gods, worlds…of everything.” 

Into the bleakness they painted, Dream of the Endless replied…simply, powerfully:  “I am Hope.”  

To this there can be no reply, no defeat, no destruction because hope is everywhere to be found. In every heart and mind, in every space in life. As the poet Alexander Pope wrote, hope springs eternal. No matter how we suffer, how we hurt, or how little light can be seen, our eyes will always seek out and find it–even the merest pinprick of light in the darkness, the tiniest bit of hope to cling to.

“I am Hope,” is God’s gentle whisper to worn and weary hearts at this onset of Advent. As we begin this journey into the Christmas season, Hope is at our side. As we wend towards the end of 2021, sometimes with tremulous steps, Hope is under our arm, supporting us. Even the merest mustard seed of faith that things will get better and that God will show us the way lends strength and power to Hope. Hope is in a hand outstretched to help, in celebrating a hard task done, and even in the quickest of kind notes and gentle acknowledgements from our dear ones. Hope is in the bringing-together words of “Me, too. You aren’t alone.” 

Hope is what holds us aloft and all together. Hope in life, hope in God and His love, hope in His light. As the first Advent candle glows, may we find hope in its flame and in the Word it prepares us for.

Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Walking Before the World is Awake….& Something New


I love walking before the world is awake.
When the sky is still a slate-colored marshmallow,
With just a hint of a suggestion of daylight beyond.
But not yet.
This is my chapel.
This is my serenity.
This is where I re-center.
Windows are still dark.
Walkway lights still lit.
Just enough light to see by
But not enough to push you towards wakefulness.
It’s as though the world, by silent agreement, has made space just for me and my silent steps.
I love it when even the birds are quiet.
As though the mourning doves cooed in earlier dark,
“Roll over. Sleep on.
The world is loud enough already.
Let her walk in peace.”

©️ Melissa Snyder, 8/28/21

~ So I’m trying something here, Dear Readers. I have only done it once or twice before. Below you will find a link to a Voice-over Reading of the piece above. Yes, that is me. What do think? Would this be something to pursue? Something you might enjoy more of? Let me know your thoughts down below in the comments and we shall see what we shall see. ^_^

The Unfinished Work of Freedom


I was today years old when I realized something. As we stood in the meeting house this morning and sang “America the Beautiful”, I found myself looking at the lyrics, the music dying away on my lips as I read and thought. The latter section of each verse is, in its essence, a prayer.

v1 – O beautiful for spacious skies, 
for amber waves of grain; 
for purple mountain majesties 
above the fruited plain! 
America! America! God shed his grace on thee, 
and crown thy good with brotherhood 
from sea to shining sea. 

v2 – O beautiful for heroes proved 
in liberating strife, 
who more than self their country loved, 
and mercy more than life! 
America! America! May God thy gold refine, 
till all success be nobleness, 
and every gain divine. 

v3 – O beautiful for patriot dream 
that sees beyond the years 
thine alabaster cities gleam,
undimmed by human tears! 
America! America! God mend thine every flaw, 
confirm thy soul in self-control, 
thy liberty in law.

For all their extolling America’s virtues, these verses and the prayers embedded into them acknowledge that there is still so far to go, so much to do in the work towards that American Dream of freedom. And I find myself appreciating this honesty, whether the authoress, Katharine Lee Bates, intended it or not.

The absolute truth of our country is that freedom is still an unrealized dream. No, slavery doesn’t exist anymore in our country (not as we historically think of it) but the cultural and societal beliefs and mindsets that engendered it still survive and pervade. Freedom and independence still do not exist for all in America. The fight for equality and equity is still on-going. It is not over because not everyone is truly free and, ever more the worse, many refuse to acknowledge this truth.

“God mend thine every flaw.”

We are such a flawed nation, dear readers. We pull away the rights and access that we were taught were the very basis and foundation for our country’s creation in the first place. We deny others the security, equality, and freedoms that we have enjoyed. We shove people out instead of welcoming them in. We revel in and even proudly display our biases, our prejudices, our hatreds, and out the other corner of our mouths, we declare this “the greatest country on earth”. It is not. We have not fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, clothed the naked. We have not welcomed the desperate stranger nor loved our neighbors as ourselves (no exceptions). We are not free. Not yet.

So, as we cook our hot dogs and terrify our pets with colorful explosions, let’s not forget, dear friends, that one of our most “patriotic” songs acknowledges the long way we have yet to go and prays for us in it.

Till all success be nobleness.”

We are not free because not everyone is free or has the equity or ability to live with dignity and rights. Freedom has never been and still is not yet “for all”. We are not done yet. So don’t you dare think that this is the time to sit back and rest on your laurels and admire how great America is. We aren’t there. Not yet. We are closer. But not there yet.

So. Finish up your hot dog and potato salad, make sure that your sparklers are all the way out, and get up. Let’s go. There’s still work to do, friends–for our loved ones, for our neighbors (all of them), for our country. Let’s go make it beautiful.

What Is This Feeling, Sudden and New?


I think I get what Elphaba and Galinda were singing about now. Well, in a way, at least.

Our family has recently grown by one member. This new member is about 11 inches long, weighs approximately 1lb, has beautiful blue-green eyes, and the sweetest little tufts of white fur stick out between his toes. Yes, our newest family member is a little two-month-old kitten named Jack (or, as I call him in my head, Jackson Ozymandias Snyder). He has been in our house for almost a week now and has thoroughly claimed all three of us as his own. He is slight and light, with his own unique little meow, and we love him dearly already. But, somehow, amidst that love, this kitten has settled like a weight within my chest. A little ball of anxiety curled up amidst the playfulness and comfort, Fear and worry over this additional little life for which I am now responsible and the routine of life which he has totally upended. Now we have another’s comfort, safety, and well-being to consider, whose needs may be far different than ours.

I did not expect this anxiety upon keeping the promise of a kitten to my daughter. I did not expect an abject fear so great that I wanted to hand him back to his foster family and call the whole thing off. Fear that I might fail him, like I failed Ozymandias before him. Our Ozzy who had to be re-homed after Lizzy was born because I, in my postpartum struggles, did not have the energy to expend to redirect his dissatisfaction with this squalling pink thing that we had brought home and that was constantly in his spots. We did re-home him on my in-laws’ farm but he got out and disappeared. We have no idea what happened to him after that and, unbeknownst to me, the guilt had buried deep. I had broken my promise of a forever home. I had failed him.

I absolutely did not expect the guilt and fear of that failure to crash over and try to drown me in this new attempt. In private, I have breathed, cried, and wrung my hands when the urge to give Jack back is strongest. When he curls into my lap after his favorite little playmate has gone to bed and turns into a little void loaf, purring as loudly as ever he can, I cup my hand around his tiny head or the curve of his back and murmur to him. I tell Jack how imperfect I am, how I have failed before, but I also promise to do my best for him. I promise to keep him fed, sheltered, healthy, and to love him as much as I can. I will be imperfect; I will fail. But I am going to do my best to love him, teach him “soft paws”, enrich him, and help him feel forever safe.

The anxiety is still here, just as it is for my daughter as she goes about her first week of summer camp, but I don’t want to stay stuck in it. Maybe this is a first step forward in my wider work of healing and recovery in the midst of my anxiety: choosing to trust that I will do my best and believing that, day to day, that it is enough for that moment. I love little Jack. So does my daughter; she says thank you for him at least once a day and aches to get back to him at the end of camp. My husband burst into tears when Jack climbed into and curled up in his lap for the first time of his own accord. I know he carries the guilt of Ozzy’s fate, too. But we will do our best. I know we will.

Whatever you are facing in your journey today, dear Reader, do not despair. You will be imperfect, it’s rather unavoidable, but do not let that keep you from trying. Your best will vary from day to day but, no matter what, it will be your best and it will be enough for that moment. I believe that. And I believe in you.

Struggling towards Slow


I find myself living in fear and anxiety over summer’s end when it has barely begun, already racing towards the chaos of school prep when the madness of school’s end has just passed. Why am I tumbling so far ahead when I have barely opened the gift of summer?

Right at the end of May, I bought Jennifer Dukes Lee’s newest book Growing Slow because slowness is something my soul is desperately crying out for. I longed for snow days this winter but e-learning has now eliminated those unexpected days off. I longed to settle down into winter, for hibernation and dormancy, but it felt absolutely impossible to slow down, even during the holidays. And now it feels the same, my anxiety ramping up towards the ending of this season when summer has hardly started. I want to slow down. I want to look at my hours and hold them loosely and gently, to allow myself to not do all the things, to linger in moments of quiet and stillness without feeling as though I am wasting them. I want to let go of this desperate-yet-detested drive to be “productive”.

In her introduction, Jennifer writes “You can get so rushed chasing a certain kind of remarkable life that you miss the fact that you are already standing inside the one that God gave you” (xvi). I feel that down into my aching, often-empty-feeling bones. Not that I am chasing a remarkable life but that I am constantly rushing and running to maintain said life. I know that our life is blessed and lovely and privileged and wonderful; we have been given marvelous opportunities…for our family, for our ministry, to be part of community…and I honestly live in constant fear that all that will crumble if I don’t keep hustling to make sure it doesn’t. If I don’t hustle, I won’t keep us fed. If I don’t rush and work, I won’t keep the lights on and the bills paid. I have taken so much responsibility onto my shoulders that I have found that I cannot slow down. And it’s destabilizing me.

In a recent issue of Bella Grace Magazine, there was an article titled “What If All I Want is a Mediocre Life?” I kid you not, dear Reader, my soul leapt and reached for that so adamantly that I actually thought it had left my body for a second. Mediocre in its original meaning: “ordinary”, “commonplace”. A simple life. No rushing, no excelling, no being “remarkable” like everyone seems to want to be these days. Just to do life quietly and perpetuate my own good in it day by day. Oh, I cannot describe to you how good and whole and lovely that sounds.

So, knowing where I am and where I want to get, I am going to be taking this journey into Growing Slow by Jennifer Dukes Lee and also Wintering by Katherine May over these summer months in an attempt to make my way back to slow. I know that this is a journey, not a quick fix. I need this slow time. I need to find a way back to it to give myself a fighting chance. You’re welcome to come with me as I learn from these wonderful women. You can find both of their beautiful books on Amazon.

Growing Slow by Jennifer Dukes Lee – Amazon

Wintering by Katherine May – Amazon