I can still see the bubbles – I can still feel them on my cheeks.  I can hear the splashing – I can feel my two year old brother squirting me with his bath toys.  I can hear the sound of my own giggle as I tried to convince my mom to tell me – “Just tell me!  Tell me!  Plllllease tell me!”

And then Mom told me.  Dad had gone to visit Santa.  To give him my wish-list.  Magic.


I imagined him.  If he was visiting Santa, that meant he’d be in the snow.  Would he take a sleigh?  How did he know where to find Santa?  And then I knew:  Because magic.

I imagined Santa.  Would his white beard glisten as he laughed?  What did he wear when he wasn’t in his holiday suit?  Where did he keep his reindeer?  And what did they eat?  And then I knew:  Magic.

I can’t remember anything about my wish list.  I’m sure it was standard fare for a four-year old.  Probably something about a doll or a dress.  Maybe my favorite show, which was probably a toss up between Smurfs and He-Man.  But see, the list wasn’t the magic part.

My Dad knew Santa.  And Santa lived close.  In our mountains – my mountains.  From that moment on I was officially on “Santa watch” every time we roamed up to our local mountains.  Even in the summer.  Actually, especially in the summer, because that’s when he’d least expect me to find him.  I knew exactly what I was looking for, too.  He had to live somewhere with a barn so his reindeer could be hidden away out of sight, and I figured during the summer months Santa probably sported a short-sleeve red plaid shirt.  And cropped his beard.  And drove a jeep.  I was a very logical four-year-old.

It wasn’t long before my logical self grew out of Santa and discovered that “Dad taking him my wish list” was my Mom’s creative way of saying that Dad had gone Christmas shopping, and that the nights I’d heard jingle bells on the roof were my Dad stomping around, not Jolly Old St. Nick.  But it didn’t change the magic for me.  In fact, it increased it.  I mean, my Dad got up on our roof and walked around with jingle bells.  Now THAT’S some magic.

And I never experienced a traumatic transition from Christmas being about Santa to it being about Baby Jesus.  Smooth as butter for this young mind to learn about “the real Old St. Nick” and the Jesus he worshiped.  Because see, Santa wasn’t the magic part to me.  My Mom and Dad were the magic part.  Guys, my Dad KNEW SANTA.  Magic.  My Mom fed my imagination.  Magic.  Jingle Bells on a rooftop were even more magical knowing they belonged to my Dad instead of some guy with a white beard.

And now, thirty years after that little girl’s bath-time, with the bubbles and the splashing and the giggles all on-call for my wistful moments, my eyes still twinkle at the thought of my Mom and Dad knowing magic.  In fact, thirty years later, I need to remember that magic.  I became a really serious kid as I became a responsible big sister, and I didn’t exactly choose a magic-filled career.  But there are moments and places that capture it for me and take me right back to that four-year-old self.  Right back to a place where anything can happen, where the world is wide and full and your Dad knows Santa.  Disneyland has my number – they get me every time when they launch faux-snow right after the Christmas-melody of fireworks.  My favorite littles get me when they wrap their arms around my neck and whisper “I wuv you.”  My husband gets me every time he grabs my soap-covered hands and spins me for a dance in our kitchen.  New horizons get me.  The deep ocean gets me.  Stories of redemption get me.  In those moments, magic grabs me and shakes me and says “This life is full of me!  Look around and see me – I’m everywhere!”  And I know it’s true – magic fills this place we call home.  But it’s not the magic of flying reindeer or a bowl full of jelly.  It’s the magic of the people that help us imagine.  That open our hearts and our minds to what could be.  To create with what can’t be seen.

Magic is waiting – it’s waiting for me to close my eyes and go back to a bubble-filled bath time.  And it’s waiting for me to open my eyes and see what’s right in front of me.  If we’re wiling to look, we’ll find it behind and ahead and inside.  And maybe, just maybe, we’ll even be lucky enough to bring Magic to someone else’s story, whether it’s by strapping jingle bells on our boots or opening their heart to a new, quiet truth.  But he

re’s the thing about Magic: It can’t be sold but it can be treasured.  It can’t be buried but it can be lost.  It can’t be bought but it can be created.  You can’t taste it or see it or hold it – you have to experience it, and no one can do that for you. But be ready, because it can sneak up on you in the unlikeliest of places – even in the whispy memories of suds and bubbles.  Or in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.

Merry Christmas – may it be magical.


The one that began with a baby and a puppy


Finn 15It all started with a puppy and a baby in a driveway.

As they crawled towards each other, we knew we were getting good neighbors.  We didn’t know we were getting So. Much. More.

That baby and puppy are now four years old.  And soon, the boy who is no longer a baby will pack up his mom and his dad and his sister and move away.  I’ve known this day was coming for awhile now, from the moment they sat us down and said “So, we got this email – and we’re just exploring – but this is possible.”  And there’s no doubt that they are heading to greatness – to a place that is filled with family and opportunities and God whispering to take brave steps.  And in that, there are many reasons for happy squeals.

But also, they’re leaving (insert whine).  And while friends moving away isn’t new – I guess you could say it’s one of the costs of living in Southern California – there is something very new about their move.  Because there was something very new about their friendship and the way we got to do life together.   So I’m getting a whole new set of questions directed towards me … “How are you doing with this?” … “Will you be okay?” …  at first I was put off by the attention, wanting to say I’m not so pathetic that my life won’t go on without them.

I wanted to say it’s no big deal.

ButI knew that would be a lie.  And it got me wondering –  I don’t know why we’re all afraid to say that the people in our lives are a big deal.  And really, how sad would it be if friends moving away was met with a “meh” and a shrug.  But somehow, I felt the need to down-play my response.  To down-play the impact their move will have on my life in some desperate attempt to prove independence or something equally stupid.  And yes, I do have other friends, but I don’t have another Nick, Karen, Finnden and Ellis – and having them for the last four years is such a big, beautiful deal.

Because every now and then we get friends that make our story better – like meeting characters in a book that you didn’t realize were even missing until you meet them and sit back and say “ah yes, this is a better story now”.  They are the characters that make you laugh so hard that no sound is coming out.  The ones that help you heal.  That grab a flashlight and hold it out in the dark and scary places God calls you into.  The ones that make you jump into a pool with all your clothes on.  That will down a cheeseburger and donuts with you at midnight.  The ones that play a major role in the scenes choked by laughter and the ones drowning in tears.

Finn 5The days that started with a puppy and a baby in a driveway became nights of laughter around a dinner table.  Talks that started with the traditional “what do you do?” evolved into “who are you as your truest self?”  Through walks and talks and game nights and movie nights and play dates and work days and heart-times and hard-times those questions found answers.  Through diapers and long work shifts and hard losses and great wins we grew and changed.  Through celebrating together.  Through mourning together.  Through sharing words, and the moments that there are no words for.  Through watching and waiting.  Together.

And somewhere, in between the simple days and the deep places, friends became these friends.  And my story was bettered because their baby met my puppy in the driveway.

I recently read this question:  “How expensive is it to be rich in friends?”  Answer:  So expensive.  Especially when you say “goodbye” or “see ya later” or “send me pictures of your new home!  and your new friends!  except the skinny pretty ones, don’t send me their pictures”.  So expensive – if you’re willing.  And we should always, always be willing.

It’s tempting – in this season of change – to decide that this is the Last Great Goodbye that I’m willing to make.  But I know that’s not me.  We decided long ago that the currency we’d most prefer to be rich in is friends, and we are indeed wealthy, so with that comes costs.  So I’m choosing to feel it all, and to be willing to feel it again.  I’m choosing to feel the deep sense of gratitude to the Great Storyteller who knew I needed a Nick, a Karen, a Finnden and an Ellis.  I’m choosing to answer questions about how I’m doing with their move by celebrating that people matter – that friends are a big deal.  I’m choosing to let myself cry even as I write this, because tears are the bodies’ way of saying that something matters.  I’m choosing to cherish each memory of Finn and Ellis growing teeth and personalities and knowing that even if I don’t make it into their long-term memory, I got to give them a special place in mine.  I’m choosing to rejoice with friends that are following God’s voice and will again be surrounded by seasons (I’ve heard there are 4) and grandparents.  I’m praying for the new friends that will fill their living room and their hearts – yes, even the skinny pretty friends.

And I’m choosing to be ready.  Ready to share life across the country instead of across the room.  Ready for surprises that show up in a driveway.  Ready to be messy and generous and needy and real.  Ready to live life that is both expensive and rich.  Ready to say that we should all be so lucky to live life so wholly together that a friend moving away is Such. A. Big. Deal.

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