Today is the day after Thanksgiving, which means it’s officially the first day of the holiday season – aka the first day I can [openly] listen to my favorite Christmas music stations on Spotify, a cause for rejoicing in and of itself.

I have a list in my head of things I want to do this holiday season, my first living in San Francisco.  I want to see the gingerbread house at the Fairmont, get fancy Christmas cocktails at the Palace Hotel, and see the Christmas lights in Alameda with my dear friends and sweet kiddos, an annual tradition.

I want to soak up the magic of this season, the “other-ness” and special, set apart feeling the month of December brings.  I want to embrace that sense that we all get a break from humdrum, everyday life, and enjoy a time of year marked by magic and mystery, and the tantalizing sense that anything is possible.

This year more than any other, what I really want to experience this season is that “anything is possible” feeling, the sense that magic and miracles are just around the corner.

Because I don’t know about you, but I could really freaking use some miracles right about now.

I look around me this year – at the world, at my circles of friends and family, at my own life –  and there is so much that is broken – which is true every year, of course, but this one feels especially harsh and raw.

I look at the world, at the daily barrage of news about mass shootings and sexual assault and ethnic cleansing and I feel overwhelmed and grieved and hopeless, like nothing will ever change and we’ll all just keep hurting each other.

I look at my community, at the young men and women I ran by in Golden Gate Park yesterday who were spending Thanksgiving, not cozily surrounded by friends and family and too much pie, but alone and on the streets, and I feel broken down by the sense of “this is not as it should be.”

I look at the lives of my nearest and dearest friends and family, and there are so many stories of anxiety, fear, sadness and uncertainty, of wounds that run deep and problems that seem hopeless and my heart hurts with and for them.

I look at my own life, and there is so much in it that is beautiful, that brings joy and deep, deep gratitude  – and there is also so much in it that is broken, that brings grief and pain and a deep yearning for restoration and wholeness.

If ever there were a time for miracles, this would be it.

So this holiday season, as I listen to Christmas music and savor traditions and drink my eggnog, what I’m really looking for are miracles.  Miracles in this broken world and in our broken lives.  Moments where Heaven touches Earth, where God shows up in big, beautiful, redemptive ways and just full on blows it out of the water.

This season I’m praying that broken hearts get healed and broken relationships get restored, that community replaces isolation, new life replaces death, that crazy, logic-defying, “Only God” stories get told, over and over again.

Because the God I believe in  – not just at Christmas but year-round – is not a God of the status quo, of the same old thing, of  “that’s just the way it is” or “just another year.”  He is a God of moving and shaking, of cooking up all sorts of delightful surprises from behind the scenes and bursting forth with them when you least expect it.

So in the midst of twinkly lights and Santa’s workshop and mysterious presents under the tree, I’m praying hard that all the wonder and expectation and delight of this season would translate to big, beautiful, crazy miracles, in my life, in the lives of people I know and love, and in this broken and beautiful world we’re all living in together.

I’m looking forward with hopeful expectation to the miracles this season will bring, and asking God to open my eyes to what He’s already up to, because it’s never what I expect and it is always, always better than I could have imagined.


A few weeks ago I traveled with my mom to the annual Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.  If you have never heard of that before in your life, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you add it to your bucket list.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was a truly magical experience.

We arrived in the pitch black pre-dawn, got some coffee [#praisethelord] and met up with my cousin and his family, including his precious three year old daughter, Hazel.  We watched as the balloonists tested their gas jets, flames shimmering against the still-dark sky, and a young woman in traditional Native American dress sang the national anthem in Navajo, as the first hot air balloons began to rise into the sky.  I’ve literally never seen anything like it.

I was holding three year old Hazel up so she could see the balloons better [sidebar – my arms were literally sore for 2 days afterwards from holding a wriggly, adorable 40 pound child – the “mom arms” thing is no joke] and every five minutes she would point up at the sky excitedly and say “Mary, Mary, look!”  

The first few times I thought something extraordinary had happened, some change to the scene we’d been looking at for the past hour, and I followed her gaze, a bit confused about what she was pointing at.  After the third or fourth time I finally caught on that nothing had changed – there were still the same balloons floating in the sky, still the same vista – but every few minutes she kept saying excitedly, a huge grin spreading across her sweet face “Mary, look, there are a million balloons!!”  I looked above her blond head, and looked – really looked – at those vibrant orbs of color silhouetted against a sky so blue it looked surreal, and I let myself really see and marvel at it, and soak it all in.

This, I think, is why you have children – or at least why you borrow other people’s as often as you can.  That sense of pure wonder, of undiluted awe, is contagious – seeing the world through children’s eyes is a miracle worker for cleansing us of our adult jadedness and cynicism, and reminding us that the world around us is a breathtaking place, if only we stop and pay attention.

The really good news is I’m being reminded that I don’t have to go on vacation or leave home to encounter wonder.

Last weekend  I had the privilege of joining a group from my church to cook breakfast for folks who live in the Tenderloin.  I was [wo]manning the scrambled egg station in the kitchen with three other women, so I hadn’t had much chance to interact with the guests eating breakfast.  Toward the end of the meal one of the guests came back to the kitchen and thanked us for cooking, and talked with us about being homeless and living on the streets with mostly men, and how she took that opportunity to talk to them about how to treat women with dignity and respect.  One of the other volunteers asked her if she took hugs and she replied “Girl, I give hugs all the time, get over here!” They embraced, and as she turned to leave she looked at us all and said “God bless you – you all are beautiful, too – God bless your mamas and your daddies!”

Wonder and Awe.

A few days ago I was running in my neighborhood before work, and looked up, dazzled by the colors of the early morning sky.  I ran by City Hall and saw so many sweet couples waiting outside to get married – they were taking selfies, laughing, holding hands and general basking in the glow of being in love and about to embark on the adventure of starting this new chapter of their lives together.

Wonder and Awe.

Tonight I was walking the same route I always walk to run some errands on Market Street, rounded the corner and saw that strands of lights had been strung among the trees at UN plaza.  Magical, fairy twinkly nights suspended among the branches, a canopy of sparkle against the dusky sky.

Wonder and Awe.

I ended up running errands at the mall – which might be one of the least wonder-and-awe-inspiring places it’s possible to be – and I happened to look up at the ceiling, and noticed the beautiful architecture for the first time.   As I was staring at the cathedral ceiling and intricate scroll work two aerial gymnasts attached to wires – I’m not making this up – soared over my head.  Clad in sleek all black, arching gracefully in the air, they held onto one another as they soared under the domed ceiling.

Wonder and Awe.

I don’t know about you, but my default mode most days is not wonder and awe.  My default mode most days is tasks and to-do lists and logistics and a million other things that are not bad, but just necessary to keep life going.  They are necessary, but the thing is, I don’t want to be so busy keeping life going that I miss the moments that make life worth living.

So I’m trying to remind myself every day to take time to look up – literally and metaphorically.  To look up – whether it’s at a clear blue sky dotted with hot air balloons or an early morning sunrise over the city or two aerial gymnasts at the mall [seriously, still no freaking clue what that was about but I’ll take it].

Because – as we all keep being reminded lately, over and over again, in heartbreaking ways – life is short and fragile and precious.  Life is short and I don’t want to take a single moment for granted.  So I’m going to try to spend more time looking up – and thanking God for this wonder-filled world.