Merry Christmas!

My “little” family

Merry Christmas from the Turners!

It has been such a fast year with a lot of hard things, as I’m sure you are all experiencing. But in the midst of it we have much to be grateful for.

David lost his last two parents this year. Carl, our Dadish, required more and more of David’s time as his memory was failing. Yet, he continued to live alone and drive himself to the poker room each day to take people’s money. Sadly, in September he picked up COVID and was unable to beat it. We were both able to be with him during his passing, as was his grandson, Ryan. David misses Carl greatly as they were very close.

David’s mom had been living with congestive heart failure and this led him to take nine trips to Santa Barbara to see her this year. We are so thankful he had that time with her, and that our birth kids were able to visit as well. Both of us were with her the last week of her life in November. We are very thankful for David’s siblings who took such good care of her, allowing her to stay in her home. Her memorial service was beautiful as she was loved by all who knew her. We grieve them both this holiday season and so many other loved ones we have lost this year.

Jacci made the big decision to retire from her therapy job! Exactly thirty years ago this month she started working as a therapist. The last year and a half have been extremely taxing on all mental health professionals, and with the added stress of the deaths of family and friends, she lost her desire to keep working. She has one more week and then will be free to write and work with Christian Formation and Direction Ministry (CFDM). Speaking of CFDM, her first online cohort has entered their second year and is going strong. She also enjoyed helping Fresno’s CFDM first year training cohort this year.

In terms of writing, Jacci’s critique group keeps her moving forward and she is now the Published and Listed (PAL) coordinator for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in Nevada. She looks forward to coordinating more writing gatherings in the future. But the most anticipated event will be the Audible version of her latest book, Tree Singer, coming in January! A dear friend who is a professional voice actress in LA is doing the audio version and it will be fantastic!

We look forward to a quieter 2022. With the days getting longer we can’t help but hope the world will get brighter as well. We certainly need the light of the Holy One to get us through this coming year. One thing that has given us joy this year is joining a small group. After a year of isolation, knowing a small group of people are there for us has been a delight. May you also be surrounded by family, deep friendships, and Light this coming year.

We send you much love.

David and Jacci


Spiritual Practice: Lighting a Candle

A lot of people are lighting candles just now. The Jewish folks are just finishing Hanukkah, the festival of lights when the Jewish people commemorate the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrian Greek Army, and also the miracle of one day’s worth of oil keeping the temple alight for eight days.

The Christians are lighting the four candles of Advent; each week one candle is lit in preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The candles represent Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.

I didn’t come to faith in a candle lighting church; evangelicals aren’t known for lighting candles. But since I left that path to a more contemplative faith, I’ve become a candle lighter. I light candles when I meet with someone in spiritual direction, “to remind us of the presence of the Holy with us.” I light candles when I’m alone, too. I find it comforting and I love scented candles that fill the room with delicious smells.

This week my small group was talking about Advent, something I’m still learning to appreciate. For the most part, my previous churches would skip Advent and go right to Christmas. It’s easier, like skipping the darkness of good Friday to get to Sunday and the resurrection.

It seems sometimes we Americans tend to avoid the hard parts of life. Advent is about the hard parts.

The woman leading our small group this week darkened the room and lit the first two Advent candles that represented Faith and Hope, and then she began to talk about how amazing things can come out of dark times. After all, Jesus came from a dark womb into a dark world and brought a great light.

As we sat in the dark, she read to us from Cole Arthur Riley’s Black Liturgies.

We are in a very dark place right now, in our country and in our world: pandemic, nations on the verge of war, catastrophic human suffering in Yemen. And personally, everyone in our small group had been touched by death, sickness, and difficult times. Advent is about being in the dark, but waiting, hoping, and longing for the light to come.

In Hanukkah, the Jewish people use one candle to light the rest. It is called the Shamash, or Helper Candle. I love that image of the Shamash Candle. During this great darkness each one of us can help bring some light. Even as we sat in that darkened room with only two candles burning, the light of the candles shone brightly.

How can we bring light during this dark time? Here are some thoughts I have, and I’d love to hear how you are bringing light.

  1. Kindness, always. I was in Walmart the other day and it was very crowded. A woman got mad at me as she was blocking an aisle and I needed to get by. She huffed harsh words at me, but I nodded and walked by. This may not sound like kindness, but it would have been easy to huff harsh words back – to start something that could have turned ugly. It was a kindness NOT to engage. Sometimes not engaging in negativity is the best we can do. Don’t rise to the bait, especially online, just scroll on by those you disagree with.
  1. Giving. I got about two dozen emails on Giving Tuesday. How do you decide where to give your money? My small group leader heard about a fun idea. We are all going to go out to dinner and bring a significant amount of extra money. Then we will choose a restaurant where the servers won’t make good tips. After dinner we will all leave our extra money to give the server a HUGE tip. How fun is that? Who doesn’t need extra money during the holidays?
  1. Thoughtfully purchasing. Our family has, for the last two years, been buying our Christmas presents from small businesses. Amazon is doing fine, but small businesses could use our support.
  1. Remembering your grieving and lonely friends. I’ve got several friends who are facing their first Christmas without husbands, wives, parents, or children. I try to send small texts to say “I remember you. I remember the one you lost. I know this time of year is hard.” We can do the same for the lonely. Send a note, a card, or make a phone call. It can mean the world to someone who is hurting to know they are not alone.
  1. Listening. People are hurting and there is largely nothing we can do for them just now, but we can listen. Sometimes just sitting with a hurting person, or offering to run errands with them, or cook for them and eat with them, can make all the difference.
  1. Prayer. The world is on fire, and I can’t do anything about what is happening in Yemen, or Ukraine, or Syria, or…. So, what can I do? I can light a candle. I can picture the hurting people of Yemen in my hands and offer them to a bigger power, one that can be there when I cannot, one that can comfort, guide, heal, and provide. I can keep a candle burning.

Let me know what you are doing to shine a light in this dark time. Perhaps as we share our little lights, we can help bring hope to a hurting world.

Photo of candles by Valeria Boltneva on

Shamash (facebook meme)