Enjoy this beautiful holiday reflection about connection to place from Rev. Hannah Anderson. We hope you’ll join us for further holiday cheer at Church of the Woods this Sunday for our Greening of the Barn!

Having grown up on a Pennsylvania farm and played extensively outside during my childhood, I find myself deeply connected to place.  To land.  To a familiar smell or texture of grass, a type of tree or sound of wind that carries me back home in a nanosecond.

A friend recently asked me about the most meaningful Christmas gift I have ever received.  Out of sixty-two years of memory, there are a few that stand out for me as particularly special—most notably the Christmas following each of my sons’ births in ’80 and ’82.  My children have been my greatest gifts.

Yet I found myself responding to this friend’s question from a different memory of Christmas that springs from my connection with land.

On Christmas Day, 1974, my young husband and I were celebrating our first Christmas in Seattle, WA where we had moved in order for me to attend a new program in bilingual education.  Needless to say, we were far apart from our families who lived in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  A tight budget and our busy schedules kept us from returning home and so we made the best of it with a little tree and some simple gifts.

A few boxes from family members arrived in time for us to place them under the tree, waiting for Christmas morning.  Those who loved us understood how challenging it might be for us not to be among them for festivities.

I reached for a box addressed specifically to me from my mother.

As I opened it up, I was hit first with the smell of pine; then Pennsylvania farm soil.  Tears started rolling down my cheeks and I, at age 21, realized that my mother had sent me a small plot of land, of home, so that I would be reconnected with my family through smell, touch, sight and memory.

Eagerly, I opened up the box and took in the full view of home:  dirt, pine boughs, crumpled fall leaves, sprigs of bittersweet and holly, pinecones, pebbles and moss!  The Christmas gift brought me such profound joy and comfort.  I hung on to this little plot of home as long as I could and, when it seemed timely, worked the Pennsylvania earth into our Seattle garden.  That, too, brought abiding peace to my homesick soul.

During this season of love, I invite you to consider where your homeland is in this beautiful world of creation.  Envision it.  Visit it.  Hold it close and dear, giving thanks for how it has blessed you and shaped you in love.