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Merry Christmas

Crestline morning

When I was little, my Dad used to ask me, "Are you feeling mad, sad, glad, or plaid?" I always said "Plaid," which meant, of course, that I couldn't pick just one thing to feel. I felt it all.

Emily will tell you that nothing's changed. 

Have you seen that bumper sticker--"If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention"? I agree. There are so many things to be outraged about. And I'm sure you could tell me about even more. And if we wanted, we could list them all--just today's flavors!--here together.

This photo was taken out my living room window yesterday morning. I feel a deep sense of well-being looking at it again today. The "plaid" means for me now that there are stripes of outrage, loss, and incredulity, but they're woven with stripes of a "peace that passes understanding." If I really want to LIVE this life, I've got to sign up for all of it. They go together.

The Happiest Man in the World (though he hates that title), a Buddhist monk named Matthieu Ricard, says part of the secret to being happy is embracing sadness. Don't you just love that? Happiness (which is a popular and distinct pursuit these days) isn't about creating the perfect life. Because even if you do, sadness will find you. And if you don't open the door for that guest, you can't be hospitable to the others.

At this moment, about to begin Christmas vacation with my family, our move finally over, and some good work waiting in the wings, I'm not feeling the outrage. I'm feeling the gratitude that favorite poet Jane Kenyon talks about. Forgive me if I've shared this poem with you before. It's part of me, so I probably have.

Friends, it could all be Otherwise. May you find contentment and purpose whatever your circumstances this Christmas. Deep peace to you.

Love Sarah.


I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table wtih silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise. 

Reader Comments (9)

Beautiful picture
Beautiful words
Beautiful heart
Thank you
December 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle
Beautiful, beautiful. I used this poem, which you introduced me to, for prayers of the people the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It was amazing hearing from everyone the prayer requests mixed in with intentional verbal acknowledgments of what could have been otherwise. Pastor Darrell's grandmother preached that day before prayers and without knowing the poem talked about her two legs that she was standing on (and needs prayer for). I cried standing in front of the congregation about what could be otherwise in my life in regards to my partnership with Ricky.

I wouldn't want a different Christmas message than this one. I'm going to adopt plaid as a feeling, thank God it's an option, and I'm loving that your dad would ask you about your feelings. You come by it naturally.

Thanks for posting today for all of us working and stalking your website. I'm sure I'll come back here and look at that picture multiple times today.

I love you.

We love you. Please keep writing. We'll keep reading.
December 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEm
Oh so very true. I love it that life is mixed up with joy and sadness all at once - I appreciate things much more. Merry Christmas to you!!
December 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbeth
So moving. Thanks for posting. Merry Christmas to you and yours. --- Jenn (jordie's friend from toronto)
December 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenn
Thank you so much! So glad I stumbled upon your blog.
December 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErin
What a lovely poem. I am so glad to finally read the whole of it. It could have been otherwise... It covers so much. In the past weeks/years, I am most outraged by the whining... Within and without. So I will quote this line to my inner whiner, and work at noticing the Good in the Horrendous. Also, something about this - it's sentiment and the reference to breakfast-- made me want to tell you about this autocorrect moment of the day (for your pleasure). I was reading various updates on the ole' book of faces, and one friend was giving an update on her son who is currently in the hospital. One of her friends responded by praying peace upon her, but it was published as peach... May you know transcendent peach, or something like that. I wished I could find a peach that I could drop off To her at the hospital.
December 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoella
Such great words! Merry Christmas to you and your family! Paid is the new velvet.
December 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
Otherwise is one of my top 10 poems of ever. And still, it stabs me every time.

Also, I'm thinking I would have loved your father. Mad, glad, sad, plaid. That's just awesome.

A very merry (belated) Christmas to you and yours, Sarah. And as always, I am so grateful for your words and thoughts, here.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermolly
Sarah this post is beautiful. Right before Thanksgiving this year I bought a painted wooden sign that said, "There is always, always, always something to be thankful for" your post here and that poem reminded me of that saying. Thank you for sharing,and a belated Merry Christmas. I pray all of God's best for you and your family in this new year.
January 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNoel

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