Beggars & Holy Nights

A year ago today, I reflected upon this topic. The timing feels right again since my heart is full yet torn. (Whose heart is not with so many cares in 2020?) Whether it’s the virus or economy or relationships or chronic illness, it can be difficult to move through problems and remain hopeful. Beggars & Holy Nights recalls an experience where a rather ordinary connection with a stranger in distress mysteriously led to a blessed flow of mercy.

That flow somehow keeps flowing.

Snowy trees in my winter yard in Northern Illinois - Hello Lovely Studio.

The thing about mystery is I am mostly in love with it, in awe of it, and reverent toward it. But with so many unknowns swirling with sorrowful world events in the past year, my foot longs for solid ground.

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So I pray and look to nature for clues and cures since it never fails to point me toward truth, toward secret sources of wholeness and joy.

Snowy trees in my winter yard in Northern Illinois - Hello Lovely Studio.

Just the other day, the woods were flourishing with color. At this moment in early December, the trees are bare, noble oaks and maples now vulnerable and grey.

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Like that intimate encounter with the beggar, they have so much to teach.

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I haven’t seen him since last winter.

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But I won’t forget that initial meeting. It was one of those days where the ground of your heart softens and your soul opens like a rose.

Oscar Wilde quote: we are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars. #hellolovelystudio #oscarwilde

The atmosphere is strangely charged as all of your senses become acute, and spirit bids you to not miss a thing.

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About a year ago, I saw him walking in cold rain, and a classic French Christmas song rang through my being, having its way with me.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining til He appeared, and the soul felt its worth.

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Maybe you know the lyrics well too. This Christmas hymn is so hauntingly beautiful and timeless.

Has it ever been more meaningful?

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Two predicaments–the suffering and injustice within humanity and the longing of hearts for beauty, dignity, and love–are somehow reconciled and resolved.

By an appearance.

Branch in a vase in a French farmhouse room. #hellolovelystudio #stilllife

But an appearance of what or whom?

Rosary and candlelight. #hellolovelystudio #faith #rosary

Empathy & Taking the Perspective of Another Person

This is WELL WORTH two minutes of your time!

You may recall that I met the anxious, deaf, and homeless beggar at a birthday lunch with our son (the same son who battled Goliath in 2020).

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The deaf gentleman handed us a note which clarified his needs, and we learned: (1) how he became homeless upon the death of his father and (2) about his abhorrence of indignity and begging. He requested spare change to pay for a motel to avoid the local shelter which had proven unsafe.

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Our hearts were stirred as we invited him to lunch, offered money, and brainstormed options. Because it was not 2020, the three of us were physically close and even embraced.

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Oh holy night, the stars are brightly shining, it is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.

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Oh, that star and that birth. Have you considered what Mary’s virginal vulnerability suggests to us as guardians of the Christmas story?

Kathleen Norris writes:

“I treasure the story because it forces me to ask: When the mystery of God’s love breaks through into my consciousness, do I run from it? . . . Or am I virgin enough to respond from my deepest, truest self, and say something new, a “yes” that will change me forever?” (AMAZING GRACE: A Vocabulary of Faith; Riverhead Books, 1999.)

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What blessing awaits when we allow the raw, fleshy, wonder of Christmas to reach us through new pathways of receiving?

What if the floodgates of blessing and Living Water are opened when hearts open with virginal vulnerability?

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Sheltered comfortably in suburbia as I am, in this privileged pocket of possibilities and prosperity, it is not everyday that LOVE, Presence, Suffering, and Christ come near in soiled clothing with trembling, signing, vulnerable fingers.

Thank goodness they do.

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When you enter into intimacy with suffering, with someone so broken-open and Christ-like, you can never truly leave unchanged.

Snowy trees in my winter yard in Northern Illinois - Hello Lovely Studio.

For a time, you clearly see your lavish blessings, your depravity, and how your life is indeed a school of higher love.

But it is too easy to fall asleep. (How many times have I thought scornfully about Jesus’ best friend Peter who slumbered in Gethsemane!?!)

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The thing is, whether it’s: a beggar in rags penetrating your personal space, or a profound loss, or a debilitating chronic illness, or a grave virus shocking your lungs and immune system, there exists an opportunity within that holy night for a most holy pause.

Snowy trees in my winter yard in Northern Illinois - Hello Lovely Studio.

What is the invitation inside the pause? How might LOVE in disguise be knocking at my heart’s door asking whether there is any room? Is something new and healing in the darkness of night trying to be born?

#hellolovelystudio

Oh, friends, if in your mind’s eye you have pictured my small form juxtaposed with a scruffy bearded man, let’s set the record straight.

Fallen leaves, autumn trees, and turning colors in my Northern Illinois yard - Hello Lovely Studio.

I am THE BEGGAR who came near Christ.

My imperfection, my weakness, my reliance on grace, my hunger for love and comfort, and my desire for dignity and home are all there.

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I stumble blindly in a culture that mostly feels perplexing and unsafe. At a time in history when self-isolation and sheltering at home are commonplace, the world still seems to lack shelter.

Has there ever been a season we have so utterly yearned to become shelter for each other yet cannot do so safely?

Fallen leaves, autumn trees, and turning colors in my Northern Illinois yard - Hello Lovely Studio.

Most of the time, I am deaf. I cannot hear the voice of Love. Can’t hear the Word’s frequent reminders to fear not. What a supreme gift when the Radiant Glance of Mercy rests even for a moment upon my humble beggar self.

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Fall on your knees–oh hear the angel voices.

Perhaps this is why when life forces us to our knees and resistance comes…we can claim these chapters as blessings too.

Maybe the angel voices are patiently waiting for holy ears.

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Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is Love and His gospel is Peace.

What beauty comes when I live under such a law and reflect such a gospel with hands surrendered and wide open!

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Oh, night divine, oh night, oh night divine

My heart is tender with glimmers of hope as I consider the dark nights of my life’s past and see clearly now that holy stars were flickering.

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As autumn edges closer to winter…

Snowy exterior of our cozy home in winter - Hello Lovely Studio.
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…and this advent season progresses to the celebration of one holy night two thousand and twenty Decembers ago,

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I wish you eyes to see through the world in error pining.

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For there is surely an appearance on the horizon.

The light is coming.

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Oh that your soul, that my soul, might feel their worth.

_______________________________________________________________________

Listen and be blessed.

p.s. More soulful reflections here.

p.s.s. I love you.

Peace to you right where you are.

-michele

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28 Comments

  1. December 9, 2019 / 1:49 am

    Every one of your posts is gorgeous, Michele, but this one is beautiful in a different way. Your words, your pictures, your big heart.

    • Michele
      Author
      December 9, 2019 / 9:41 am

      I’m so grateful to have you here. Thanks for the kindness, lovely one. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Vicki Smith
    December 9, 2019 / 6:31 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful post. It has caused me to pause, reflect and recalibrate my priorities this Christmas season.

    • Michele
      Author
      December 9, 2019 / 9:40 am

      I’m so thankful for the help along the journey to keep adjusting my lens to see as God sees. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for reading.

  3. Sandra Hinds
    December 9, 2019 / 8:30 am

    Incredibly moving thoughts and wisdom! Thanks for sharing!

    • Michele
      Author
      December 9, 2019 / 9:06 am

      Thanks for taking the time to leave kind words here, Sandra – hope you have a lovely week. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Joanna
    December 9, 2019 / 6:40 pm

    โ€œThere but for the Grace of God, go I.โ€ Bless your tender heart, Michele.

    My favourite Pentatonix song is Mary, Did You Know? It moves me to tears.

    • Michele
      Author
      December 9, 2019 / 7:46 pm

      I do love Mary Did You Know as well! Wishing you peace this freezy rainy day in Chicagoland that I braved over and over for this rescue puppy in the house! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Kathy
    December 9, 2020 / 5:41 am

    Michelle, your words touched my heart, and moved me to tears. You have such a beautiful spirit, and I am inspired by your faith and positive outlook. Blessings to you and your family this Christmas season.

    • Michele
      Author
      December 9, 2020 / 7:46 am

      Thank you for bringing beauty here and for the friendship and blessing. Wishing you and yours deep peace. xox

  6. Lee
    December 9, 2020 / 6:15 am

    My favorite photo– of you and your dog. And it brings tears to my eyes every time– our little fuzzy baby is 16 now and I know she won’t be with us much longer. God give me the grace… โ™ฅ

    • Michele
      Author
      December 9, 2020 / 7:43 am

      Our pets are so dear and give love so freely and fully – what a taste of heaven it is – peace to you and yours.

      • Amy
        December 9, 2020 / 10:03 am

        Beautiful, Michele๐Ÿ’• The weary world rejoices๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿผ

        • Michele
          Author
          December 9, 2020 / 1:50 pm

          Mmmmmmmm – yes – the thrill of hope! Thanks, Amy. xox

  7. Judy M. Holmes
    December 9, 2020 / 8:49 am

    A friend passed along your blog. All I can say is “thank you” for sharing your wisdom and “heartsong” (Mattie Stepanek). Blessings of peace to you.

    • Michele
      Author
      December 9, 2020 / 9:37 am

      So happy to welcome you here – Merry Christmas, and thanks for reading.

  8. Kathy Walsh
    December 9, 2020 / 9:01 am

    Simply beautiful, Michele. A blessed Christmas to you and your family.

    • Michele
      Author
      December 9, 2020 / 9:36 am

      Merry Christmas, friend – peace to you and thanks so much for reading.

  9. Robin
    December 9, 2020 / 9:58 am

    What an inspiring post! I enjoyed every word of it and the beautiful images. Wishing you Merry Christmas and Godโ€™s richest blessings! ๐ŸŽ„โค๏ธ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿป

    • Michele
      Author
      December 9, 2020 / 1:51 pm

      So thankful to have you here – peace to you and yours this Christmas, friend.

  10. Di
    December 9, 2020 / 4:44 pm

    This was so inspiring and uplifting. The thoughts in my head and heart went everywhere. Memories of family present and past touched my soul. Thank you for sharing. Merry Christmas. Di

    • Michele
      Author
      December 9, 2020 / 5:40 pm

      So happy and thankful to have you here with your tender heart – may it be blessed and filled with wonder this Christmas, Di. xox

  11. December 12, 2020 / 8:29 pm

    Michelle,
    Your posts are always filled with such love and insight. I love your posts since you always put your heart into it. This is the season of hope and I hope you continue to heal and be blessed.
    I love Pentatonix too.
    Hugs,
    Bev

    • Michele
      Author
      December 12, 2020 / 9:26 pm

      Thank you for being a blessing and visiting me with such a kind tender heart, Bev. Merry Christmas, lovely one.

  12. December 17, 2020 / 8:24 am

    Michele, This post… I’m kind of speechless, and I appreciate the beauty in this so much. Your blog is always such a warm place of rest and safety. I’ve been thinking about empathy a lot lately and how it’s often thought to be the same as kindness. It really took me years to understand the difference. And, even knowing the difference, sometimes it doesn’t always happen spontaneously. (I guess I’m not absolutely speechless!) I’ve featured this post today at the TFT party. Hope you’re having a good day.

    • Michele
      Author
      December 17, 2020 / 11:42 am

      Thank you so much for your tenderness and support, Pam. Looking forward to gathering with you at TFT and wishing you and yours abundant joy and comfort. xox

  13. January 14, 2021 / 5:30 pm

    Thank you for your wonderful Inspiration. You made me so happy to hear the wonderful words of Oh Holy Night, with such beautiful scenery. I just met you and I think I love you. Blessings for this New Year! So refreshing!

    • Michele
      Author
      January 14, 2021 / 8:20 pm

      I’m so happy to have you here and am feelin’ the love – love to you, new friend.

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French Country Wicker Trunk Storage
29″ Whitewashed Table Lamp Set of 2
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French Country Bed
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Round Farmhouse Table
Myla Slipcover Sofa
Deconstructed Wingback Bed
French Farmhouse Dining Table
Milagro Heart
Slipcoverd Dining Chair
Rustic Farmhouse Stool
Edgecombe End Table
Parisian Style Iron Table Lamp  33.5″
Black or Bronze Accent Table
French Stripe Basket Set
Chevron White Quilt Set
French Country Rattan Basket Set
Marble Subway Mosaic Tile
Vintage Collapsible French Laundry Basket
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Schumacher Wild Things Wallpaper
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Linen Napkin Set
French Country Lamp Set
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French Country Mirror
Faux Potted French Lavender
Shaw Daybed
Distressed White French Country Chandelier
White Artichoke Lamp
French Country Headboard
Oval Back Counter Stool, Set of 2
Antique Brass Pharmacy Floor Lamp
Round French Tufted Ottoman
Kinston Wood Bench
Italian Candelabra Chandelier
Slope Arm Linen Chair Set
Warner Upholstered Bench
Rustic Country French Dresser
Rustic French Confit Pot
Round Farmhouse Dining Table
Reclaimed Wood Dresser
Louis Upholstered Bench
Pardon My French Doormat
Stripe Turkish Towel Throw
Pamela Arm Chair
Sweater Weave Basket
French Carved Wood Chandelier
Terracotta Pots & Basket
French Country Wood Chandelier
French Linen Dining Chair
Gustavian Cabinet
French Farmhouse Dining Table
Bar Stool
Beachy White Slipcovered Sofa
Rattan Armchair
Diptyque Oyedo Candle
Cross Back Dining Chair
French Country Candle Holder
French Industrial Metal Chairs (4)
Designer Favorite Wall Mirror
Holborn Lantern Pendant
French Country 6-Light Chandelier
Rustic End Table
French Country Upholstered Arm Chair
Wicker Trunk Set
French Ticking Stripe Pillow
Jute Area Rug
Mohair Throw
Rustic Industrial Farmhouse Shelves
Belgian Linen Sofa
White Duvet & Bedding
Rustic Wood Candlestick Set
French Market Basket
Linen Modern Wing Chair
French Country Farmhouse Baskets
Concrete Pillar Table Lamp
Boheme Madera Bench
Belgian Style Lamp
Kendall Skirted Dining Chair
White Charleston Sofa
Scrubbed Wood 5-Light Chandelier
Arched Champagne Wall Mirror
Moravian Star 1-Light Pendant
Highback Armchair
Mini Pendant Light
White Vase Set
Round Woven Placemat Set
Cashmere Throw With Fringe
Black Bergamot Soy Candle
Fireclay Farm Sink (Reinhard, 30″)
White Waffle Coverlet
Light Grey Vienna Quilt
Boheme Madera Bench
Belgian Linen Duvet Set
Round Marble Side Table
Rustic Pedestal Farm Table
Rattan Hanging Chair Swing