Leah Perrault

Leah Perrault

Perrault works in Catholic health care in Saskatoon and writes and speaks about faith. Her website is leahperrault.com. Her Register column will appear monthly.

There’s a strange tenderness in harsh Prairie winters. In the midst of deep fog, the temperature swings slowly, visibility declines, ice and frost coat the roads and the windows, and the hoar frost wraps the power lines and the trees. We can easily get lost in fog, and our movement through it is reduced to wandering one miniscule and tentative step at a time, our senses attuned to the tiniest and most immediate signals of our place in space and time.  

Receiving the gift is the last stage of Advent becoming Christmas. Jesus arrives and we receive the One we have awaited. The seasons and feast days of church calendars exist not only to change the colours and routines of faith life, but also change the way we live our whole lives. We learn to practice waiting — in joyful hope — for Jesus to arrive. And this practice waiting and receiving is meant to help us get better at waiting and receiving in the rest of our lives too.

The birds took their time this fall, lingering on the Prairies longer than usual. We got more sunshine and warm days than we usually do in Saskatchewan, with autumn stretching nearly two months before the blizzards knocked us squarely into winter. Most of us aren’t ready anyway (how is anyone truly ready for six or more months of winter?). The birds did their practice flights and then took off, if late.

Presence has been swirling around me, chasing me in the fall wind, working its way through my hair. I taste it in time with friends, in singing in a choir, and in the longing to run away from what is hard.

Owning less has been a necessity and a goal as we downsized our home with our last move. And last fall, I took up the wooland.com challenge to wear the same dress for 100 days in a row. I was intrigued (as a knitter) by the prospect of wearing wool, exhausted by the choices in my closet every morning, and challenged by the impact fashion has on the environment.

Mess is a theme in my life, and therefore also in my barefoot preaching. I think I return to the theme because mess challenges me so deeply. While I grew, I found relief in order, comfort in control, rest in simplicity. And I wandered into a world with a tendency toward disorder, a resistance to control and more complexity than I could have imagined. I tried and failed to eliminate the mess, and I crawled out of rock bottom (more than once) to make peace with the reality of mess.

Writing, for me, is both a part of how I make my living and how I make sense of my living. My summer reading has coincidentally connected around a theme that, in the end, a life is just a collection of stories.

Saturday morning in early June. Sunshine streaming through lilac bushes. Birds singing from underneath leaves that seem to have grown overnight. And tables full of things we hope other people will like well enough to take home. There are stories attached to the stuff. The kids keep changing their minds and sneaking things back in the house. The seeing and the sifting happen simultaneously.

Trust wasn’t the lesson I was expecting when my partner planned a surprise anniversary weekend away. Seventeen years later, we returned to the Cypress Hills where we stayed as newlyweds. The lodgepole pines appear not to have changed as much as we have.

When I think about the long list of things I need to practice, resurrection has never made the list. But I have been returning to the theme year after year in my writing. In 2017, I wrote about not being ready to rise. The next year, I was baking buns and reflecting on relaxing into the rising work of God. And then, the danger of daring to embrace joy. Apparently, I need more practice than I thought.

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