Spinning Straw into Gold


Dec_HollyThis last week before Christmas has taken on a life of its own this year.

Right when my sweet little family was gearing up for afternoons baking cookies and evenings driving around town gazing at twinkling lights we had to, instead, quickly shift gears, rearrange plans, throw clothes in suitcases, make haste. Suddenly, it was all about hustle—a verb that I fight with a vengeance during this holy season. But rather than it being about needing a little Christmas, right this very minute, it was a pressing need to get home.

My mom is, once again, fighting a battle with her body. Cancer thinks it deserves space in her bloodstream and it is acting like a big old bully. I hate cancer.

But, I figure, the best way to fight a bully is with love so my little family has slipped on our boxing gloves and we intend to go down punching. For we want to be known as people who love. We have shown up on my parent’s doorstep, even if there is but little room in the inn, and we are ready to do business.

It is Christmas time, though, and there are children here so I am trying to figure out how you patch together something that still sings of grace and glory while not ignoring the present reality. How do we take the straw we’ve been handed and spin it into something golden and magical?

The idea of stealing away for a few minutes to purchase a last minute gift seems like blasphemy and the realization that we ran out of town and never put up a Christmas tree elicits a furrowed brow and a heavy sigh. And just like that, I feel all the joy and wonder of the season melt away like last week’s snow.

The days rise and swell and then descend into darkness, each one shorter than the last. But the side effects of my mom’s chemo seem to have bottomed out and the darkness of that pit doesn’t pull her under quite as severely. Glory. We decide to stay a few days more anyway. For this is where she is and wherever she is? That is where I have always felt most at home.

It would be a lie if I said that I wasn’t scared. It would be dishonest to purport having courage that I lack immensely. But to leave would pull me away from the only thing I know to do.

Be here.

So we stay.

And instead of trimming our tree, we cook pasta and meat sauce and feast around the table.

Rather than run from one commitment to another, we sit in my parents’ living room and receive folks who come bearing food and flowers and the gift of their friendship and I keep rubbing my eyes to brush away the tears and clear my vision because I swear I keep seeing angels.

And instead of worrying too terribly much about the presents that aren’t being bought, I feel overwhelmed by the incredible gift of today that keeps surprising and delighting and filling me. This very day, in all of its complete plainness and simplicity, is suddenly the greatest gift I have ever received.

I am slowly being humbled by the realization that, whether we are holding fiercely to the hands of someone who wants to cling to days this side of heaven or whether we are obstinately piloting through each week with lists of people to see and places to go, all of our joy rests in the center of each moment.

Each moment.

So, this Christmas, I choose to take hold of joy — the joy that the rocks and the hills and the plains can’t help but repeat. The joy that can’t be destroyed by the shadows of death or the valleys that harbor them. The joy that is right here, within my reach.

Yes. I choose joy.

I salute you!
There is nothing I can give you which you have not;
but there is much that, while I cannot give, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.
Take Heaven.

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in the present moment.
Take Peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach is joy.
Take Joy!

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you,
now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.

— Fra Giovanni

Holly Grantham
Holly is a wife, very relaxed homeschooling mom of three boys, snapper of photos, coming of age writer and a soul drowning in grace. After years in Atlanta where she attended college, married the love of her life and lived in an intentional community, she found her way back to her home state of Missouri. She now lives in an antebellum stone house, raises chickens (sometimes) and pretends that she lives in the country.
Holly Grantham

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  1. Sarah Richardson says:

    Lovely Holly, I just adore you. I adore your family for picking up and being where you needed to be this season. I’m pretty sure you are a treasure there. And your words are a treasure here. Will continue to pray for your mom. xoxo

  2. This is so beautiful, Holly. And that photo of your lovely mom just grabs my heart. Will be praying for her, and you and the rest of your family.

  3. Oh Holly… my heart feels yours very closely right now. Your words have pierced me to the core and I couldn’t respect and love you more for how you are choosing to live this Christmas. My mom is also fighting a battle with cancer and we are flighting with her.

    Tonight we gathered as a family and enjoyed a Christmas feast…after cleaning the kitchen we put on our matching PJ’s and spent some precious time sharing from our grateful hearts. My beautiful mother spoke beautiful words of faith and trust as she continues to inspire us all as she has all of our lives. Many smiles came to our faces and tears freely flowed as well. These are precious times and I don’t take them for granted.

    I will be praying for your Holly and your mother and family too.

    Much love

    Helen xoxo

  4. Misti's Mom says:

    Holly, just as you say, you are exactly where you need to be. The love y’all are surrounding you Mom with has great healing powers. I am praying for you all…

  5. Laura Brown says:

    I love that photo. It says so much.

    Just being there counts for so much. It’s what you can do. Heck with presents. Hallelujah for presence.

  6. So, so lovely, Holly. What a gift you have given your mother and yourselves to spend these days with her. May you be blessed in each moment! (And thanks for the lovely Fra Giovanni prayer – I had forgotten about it and it’s perfect.)

    • Thank you, Diana. It is a joy to be with her, that is for sure. And the Fra Giovanni prayer–it is one of my favorite things in all the world.

  7. The first time I saw this photo, i think I stared at for longer than I care to admit. So much love in it. But your words with it, oh my goodness. I want to sit at your feet and let the joy and peace that falls so freely from your presence seep into my heart like a lifeline to hope. Beautiful heart, beautiful words. Sending hugs and lots of love to you Holly.

    • Thank you, Shelly. I pray that my presence can bring some joy and peace to my mom but honestly? I gain so much by soaking up all that I can, all the while, holding on tightly to that tenous thread that holds us all to this earth. I can feel your love, friend. Truly, I can.

  8. Holly, the strength with which you write right into this gave me chills. I am hearing you roar. Your mom has the most beautiful smile … This photo … Amazing. Strength and Peace to you and your family, Lovely. Xoxo

    • Oh Idelette, it brought my mom so much joy to see your and Tina’s smiles on Saturday, to put names to faces, and to be introduced to a whole tribe of women who love. You all feel like family to me and my Mom has come to love all of you, too, after hearing my stories and seeing that the women of SheLoves are the real deal. Both of us are marching into this fight with the love and support of a collected roaring of women. Thank you so much for all that you are to me and my family.

  9. Bev Murrill says:

    HOlly… The pain and the joy jostle together for position, don’t they. I’m sad for you and your family at this tough time… but it’s true that your children will see what it means to be family even more because of this season. Bless you and yours… xxx

    • The situation is certainly not what I envisioned, Bev, but I must choose to believe that He is embedded in every single moment. Thank you so much for your words of encouragement.

  10. It seems like this season is laced with such sorrow and struggle for so many. And yet the hopeful hearts sing out, and in turn taste joy.
    I have found the sweet release of joy only comes when we breathe out, surrender, and lean in to the dark: He will catch us.
    xo praying for your beautiful mama Holly.

    • “The sweet release of joy”…you’ve drawn a beautiful picture of what happens when we give ourselves over to the One who catches us, Michaela. Thank you.

  11. MsLorretty says:

    Thank you for wrapping what you have been given and presenting it as an offering to the King…and to us who need to see Him wherever we are. Bless you sister.

  12. It seems insult to injury when cancer strikes back at Christmas. My uncle was just called out of remission last week, and returns to the hospital for his second round of Leukemia treatments today.

    And yet…it brings us together, cousins, aunts and uncles, siblings. Glory. We are gentle with each other. Grace. Straw into gold. thanks for sharing this.

    Remembering your mother and praying for healing and hope.

    • Oh Jana, I am so sorry that you know this road all too well. But you are right, it does bring us all together, despite, and we must recognize the gift inherent in our gathering. Praying for you and your family this season and throughout your fight.

  13. So beautiful my friend. I am praying for your whole family. Your mom is the sweetest, and I was so excited to see her on skype. To get a peek into this holy time. You are very loved, and I am with you, cheering you on from Canada. xoxo

    • Daniela,
      Thank you, friend, for loving me and supporting me so well. I feel your cheers across the miles but I still wish we were closer. Here’s hoping that, one day, there will be no screens between us…only real live flesh and bones.

  14. Holly, you and your brood teach us all lessons on loving well this year. Thank you for not only writing this glory – but LIVING it.

    Oh, and it was wrapped up for an early Christmas gift and placed in my hand by my own loving mother (who – i echo your sentiment – makes me feel most at home). Now it hangs above the window by my kitchen sink to help me remember how delectable the moments as they pass.

    Here’s what it says:

    To see a World in a Grain of Sand
    And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
    Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
    And Eternity in an hour

    (William Blake)

    • “Eternity in an hour” oh yes, Kelli. What a perfect description of living completely and wholly in the moment. Thank you for sharing this and for pointing me in yet another sacred way of seeing.

  15. Laura Shook says:

    Praying for you as you continue to choose joy this Christmas. How blessed your mother is to have you stand with her! Thankful you have today.

  16. Holly, you are not alone. Doing the same. The present is all we really have. The rest is a fabrication of our minds. Thank you for extending love and joy. A Daughter of God can never be harmed and there is no seperation. Now, to live those words here.

    • “No separation”… oh Marie, this is so incredibly comforting and hopeful. Thank you. Praying grace and peace into your darker moments as you walk this path as well.

  17. Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

    Oh Holly… first of all, that picture of your mom and Samuel. Precious. And your bravery in staying, leaning into this hard thing, is beautiful. You, your mom, and your family are in my prayers today.

    • Oh Bethany, it sure doesn’t feel brave. It feels like a desperate falling into complete surrender and then a timid childlike hoping for the best. I continue to hold you and your family close, too. I know that I am not alone on this road.

  18. oh dear Holly. I had wondered about how your heart was doing in the midst of all of this. Here is my answer. and the reminder that the here and now is more important than anything we can do or give…is so important. I pray that your presence, all of you..will be a much needed blessing and life giving to your Mama. I pray that each day as you hold her close and she holds little Samuel close and her other ‘big boys’ that she will be feeling the love permeating from them…and infuse her body and soul. Love you friend.

    • Janel, what you have been praying, and continue to pray for, is already coming to pass. My mom shared with me, just this morning, how just having us home cheered her in big and mighty ways. Thank you, friend, for this. All of this.

  19. Katie Richardson says:

    This is so beautiful and so encouraging. Thank you for sharing your joy and the teaching your children what Christmas is really about by loving your parents. <3

    • Katie, it cheers me to know that you are encouraged by my bumbling attempts to be faithful. Truly the Lord is at work.

  20. This bending low to receive, even though it isn’t what you’d want if you could write the script yourself . . . it’s a sacrament of the most beautiful kind. Rich blessings as He continues to lead you ever closer to His heart and as you unwrap the greatest gifts of all . . . right here. {hugs}, sweet friend. I’m lifting you up . . . all of you. For yes, there is joy.

    • Bethany Olsen Bethany Olsen says:

      “This bending low to receive, even though it isn’t what you’d want if you could write the script yourself . . . it’s a sacrament of the most beautiful kind.” Wow. This. Yes.

      • Yes, Amy, you’ve articulated it perfectly… a script that I did not write. It truly is an exercise of faith to hold each moment close and trust. Thank you sp very much for your prayers and support.


  1. […] my mother’s insidious illness and its requisite course of treatment were too much for her tired body to endure. Sometimes, no […]

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