Heart’s Open Door

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Hello, friends. I hope you’re each enjoying this second week of Advent. Second week already? How can it be?

One of the interesting things about being a writer is that you tend to experience and observe life at the same time. I’ve generally got a commentary humming along in the back (oftentimes front!) of my mind; I find myself reaching instinctively after words and phrases to express whatever it is that I happen to be doing/thinking/feeling at a particular moment. I imagine a lot of this is rooted in a lifelong habit of compulsive journaling. But I also know that a huge part of this two-fold mindset originated with this little space here at Lanier’s Books. It was over ten years ago that my husband urged me to set up this site, and since then it’s gone from me tapping away at words I thought no one would ever see, to a kindly circle of kindred spirits who let me know that they care about what happens here, even when I don’t post an update for months. And because I know you are there, I find myself constantly formulating ways of telling you what’s going on, even if it never makes it to the screen.

My history with blogging has been one of fits and starts—while I’m always working away at something in the background, be it story, essay, or academic deadline, I tend to swing between irregular consistency and utter silence around here. It means so much to me that so many of you have stuck it out through those silences, and welcomed my words when they return. Quite frankly, it amazes me. Thank you so much.

Over the years, some of the warmest and most enthusiastic feedback I’ve gotten has been on my Advent and Christmas postings, even though, to me, they seem rare as hen’s teeth amid the other scribblings with which these pages are filled. The trouble is, I love to write about Christmas—I long to write about as it’s happening, and to share my happiness, challenges, sorrows and joys here with you—but my days are so filled with Christmas itself, I never seem to find the time to wedge in as many posts or notes or recipes in this place as I would like. What Christmas and Advent pieces there are I’ve generally fought into existence, simply because whatever it is that I wanted to say would not let me rest until I’d hammered it out—and because I’ve wanted to connect here with you each year. (Case in point: I literally wrote this piece last December as I was rolling out the children’s requisite Christmas Eve gingerbread men—I had my laptop on one side of the kitchen table, and my rolling pin and Silpat on the other! I kept turning phrases and concepts over and over as I worked, dashing back and forth between keyboard and cookie dough. It was a sight to behold, I assure you.)

But I’m always so touched to hear how my Advent posts have touched you. This is seriously my favorite time of year, not only because of the sentiment and tradition attached to it, but because the rock-solid mysteries upon which my faith is built seem clearer and closer—to my heart and to my imagination—than at any other time. The air of Advent seems charged with a breathless hush to me, thronged with an invisible, expectant host. The world around me, most notably the world of my own little farm, seems so crowded with symbol and paradox my heart is pierced at every turn. I’ve often dreamed about writing an Advent/Christmas book; my desktop is cluttered with folders of notes and ideas and scraps of ephemera I’ve gathered over the years. But it’s hard (I would say impossible, even) for me to recapture the aching wonder of it all, the mystery, the beauty, in February or March—much less August or September. The only way for me to write about Christmas the way I want to is to write in the middle of it.

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Right in the middle of cookies and caramels, of making beds and decorating guest rooms and setting tables and laying fires. Deep in the teatime gatherings and the dinner parties and the quiet evenings by the fire—notebook in hand to catch Love’s sweet impressions as they fly.

Crazy, right?

Up until this point, it’s been an impossible dream. The temptation to overdo in all my joy has been a major force to be reckoned with—and one against which I arm myself every year with prayer and the accountability of trusted friends. In the early mornings I seek and sit with the exquisite paradox of God with us; throughout the days of Advent I try to tether my heart to the earth-shattering meaning in all the merriment and preparation—sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much. In the evenings I endeavor to rest and enjoy the comforts of the season with my husband and with family and friends. But to try and craft legible prose amid this sweet round? Well, it rarely happens, that’s all.

When Laura suggested we team up on the sweetly ambitious project of a dedicated Advent and Christmas blog, my first reaction was, “That’s a beautiful idea, but there’s no way we’d have time.” But the more I turned it over in my mind, the more I realized that such a committed sprint of words might be just what I needed. My husband’s response was less overthought. “Are you kidding?” he asked me. “This is right up your alley. What are you waiting for?”

Laura is just as idealistic—and just as tender towards Christmas as I am. What’s more, she has a full plate of responsibilities on her hands. I figured if Laura could do it, and still have the kind of beautiful and quiet holiday she wanted to, then nothing was holding me back either. From the beginning it’s been a wildly fun undertaking, in which we’ve indulged every delight and prodded every sentiment for deeper meaning. I knew it would be a joy to work on something like this with such a dear friend—but what I didn’t realize was that it had the potential to make my Christmas.

I feel like I’m walking around with every sense wide awake. I’m overflowing with inspiration, and the more I spill ideas onto the page, the faster my mind brims up with others. It’s astonishing, but I’m finding that all the old writing advice is not only true, it’s wonderfully simple: The more you write, the more you write.

And so, I’m moving through these precious days with a notebook and pencil in hand, carving out time to write and reflect during my busiest time of year. It’s meant that some tasks have been delayed, or their necessity called into question. But, more importantly, it’s meant that perfectionism doesn’t get the final word, and that busyness doesn’t claim what’s meant to be a deeply sacred time. I’ve learned so much this year about what works for me as writer (and a person), and what doesn’t. And this glad and golden adventure has confirmed the joy of my calling in a wholly unprecedented way.

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I was talking to a friend a few months ago about projects and aspirations, when, right in the middle of our conversation I had the keenest image of my writing as it’s meant to be under God: an act of hospitality. To usher others into a warm place of words and welcome; to not just tell people they’re not alone, but to show them by creating a space out of the winds of the world in which their native longings are safe, and in which they’ll find a friendly hand (print or virtual) to hold against the gathering dark. The writers whose works mean the most to me are the ones whose open door of a heart has made them seem like old and dear friends. There’s nothing I’d love better than to pay such a debt forward with word offerings of my own.

I want to thank all of you who have joined us over at Golden Hours the past couple of weeks. It has meant more than I can say to see so many friendly faces there. You never cease to show me I’m not alone.

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May your Adventide be blessed, friends, graced with beauty and bright with the breaking hope of our coming Lord!

24 Responses to “Heart’s Open Door”

  1. Diane R. says:

    Oh, Lanier, thank you for all you have given us over the years…….the Lord has used you mightily for so many! You draw us into the mystery and beauty of life with Jesus, creating a safe haven where others really do find the hope and encouragement, the hospitality, that you seek to offer. On more than one occasion, my days have been greatly enriched through your words and the thoughts they have birthed in me. I am blessed to be part of the community that you have gathered here, as we all seek to experience and share the wonder and joy of knowing Jesus, through each season of His life and all the seasons of our own. Someday we will meet one another around the throne of Grace………what a lovely reunion that will be!

    In this Advent time and the coming Christmas holiday, a time that is truly one of the “thin places” of the year, may you be richly blessed with the joy and love that Jesus brings.

  2. Elyce W. says:

    YES. What a joyous thing, heart’s open door. I have often been caught between wanting to create a physical refuge for friends (which I do with tea parties, cozy chats on winter evenings, and such) and wanting to create an eternal, invisible refuge for friends (with words, encouraging notes, and the like).

    You have captured this idea perfectly- writing being an act of hospitality.

    Love it! And am so excited to check out the Advent blog. 😀

    Elyce

  3. Nancy says:

    Lanier, I am loving your Advent blog. I commented over there that it is like a beautiful Advent calendar and I find myself looking forward to opening a new “window” every day. I appreciate so much the effort you and Laura have put into it. It has certainly cause me to be more centered and reflective this Advent and for that I am very grateful.

  4. Jessika says:

    I have been reading your dear posts for years, but I don’t comment often. I do want to say now that there have been so many periods where I have struggled to find purpose and meaning in my life–first as a single girl learning to find her way in the world and now as a stay at home wife with no children to tend to yet… There is so often that question that arises, “if I weren’t here, would anyone notice? Do I matter?” And dear Lanier, so many times it has been your words that lead me home, that guide me through grief and align me with the light of Christ, that remind me that if my life is nothing more than a living, blazing declaration of God’s grace to me, there could not be a life more worth living. I used to think I needed war cries and battle speeches to pull me out of my fear and doubt, but I have been realizing how deeply grateful I am that God gave me your precious, quiet words instead. They have helped me come alive. Your heart’s open door is a fountain which pours forth living waters. Praise God. 🙂

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Jessika, I am blessed and humbled to hear how any words of mine have made you feel less alone and more brave. Your words here do the same thing for me. Bless you. xx

  5. I love your Advent and Christmas posts. I’m really enjoying both you and Laura writing this year. Hoping there will be another podcast soon, too. Give us a little and there we go asking for more!

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Thank you, sweet Brenda! We’d love to do more podcasts–at this point it’s down to time and logistics! 😉 xx

  6. Amy Marie says:

    This is beautiful…I loved getting an inside view of your head and heart on writing, especially WHILE in the midst of a beautiful, busy season. You articulated something for me. Thank you.

  7. rebecca says:

    Blessed by your hospitality this evening. Precious moments spent here before I climb the stairs to bed…my mind is soothed by your gentle and significant words and thoughts here….
    Thanks to your husband for encouraging you to cultivate this spot those many years ago!

  8. Elizabeth says:

    how lovely!!! Oh, that table cloth, those dishes, top photo!!! So beautiful!! I have not yet read your other blog, forgive me, but have taken a look and added your IG feed to mine… It’s been an intense season for me, but I love your words, your efforts, your dreams and of course I seek to love our Christ, born on Christmas….

    so much that I have often though, if I were to found a church, it would be to Christ’s Nativity, with second Patron Saint of St. Nicholas, 🙂 … of course I love the ones I go to and can’t wait to see it all dressed up for Christmas again! DV! 🙂

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Elizabeth, I have complete empathy with intense seasons! And, oh, how I love the thought of a church dedicated to Christ’s Nativity!

      • Elizabeth says:

        I have been loving your Golden Hours blog now that I have more time to savour it!!! I Know, I would love to found such a church!!! And fill it with greenery and use all of my best China for a feast after liturgy! of course to do that right, it would have to be a midnight liturgy with all the bees wax candles lit…Sigh! Somewhere there must be this place and certainly Christmas is an eternal reality, ever present with us!

  9. Susan says:

    Dear Lanier,

    I’ve enjoyed popping on this site occasionally over the years, but now, I don’t know whether it’s the harried few months I’ve had (or the harried year the world has had!) and my longing for the joy and peace of Christmas is more ravenous than last year, but something in me truly sighs more contentedly than ever when I visit both this site and your Christmas one.

    Where you wrote “creating a space out of the winds of the world in which their native longings are safe, and in which they’ll find a friendly hand (print or virtual) to hold against the gathering dark.”….yes yes, that’s exactly it. I live in a suburban village in England, with a different lifestyle and a different culture, so we are world’s apart, nonetheless, I feel among kindred spirits when I visit your sites – I feel fully nourished when reading your writing (and gorgeous photos) – it puts a spring in my step. I almost wish your posts could be turned into a book so I could give them away and share your loveliness more easily!

    Truly a breath of fresh air. I’m thoroughly enjoying spending this season dipping between this site and Golden Hours.

    Susan

  10. Lanier, the phrase about the necessity of some tasks in this season “being called into question” really resonated with me. All the before, during and after of Christmas time makes the Mary/Martha illustration come to the fore. I want to continue to choose the better part, sitting and listening, not only to Jesus, but to the person right in front of me–at the grocery store, the post office or in the foyer at church.
    It is a daily challenge but I’m grateful for the tension to slow and sit and settle when I need to, that calls me to the meaning of this time of year–that Jesus came and that He calls us to be present in the world, whatever that looks like–gingerbread cookie baking or writing.
    (and your phrase about the way we writers process the world–captured perfectly!)

  11. I have sometimes attempted to convey that sense of the commentary running in my mind–I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t an on-going accompaniment to events both trivial and unusual, a busyness of storing up details of the moment in progress.
    I’m delighted that you have expressed it so well.

  12. Martina says:

    Even if I comment only now, “Golden Hours” and your generous heart’s open door was much appreciated during the last weeks. Your new blog was like a shining, precious advent calendar for me. It made the season brighter and more meaningful.
    And I love “The more you write, the more you write”. How true!
    Looking forward to your’s and Laura’s writing in the new year!

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