Christmas Eve. 6.44 am.
I've been awake for hours. It's minus six out and I've been lying very still, hands tucked under my pillow to stop the chill.
I've been trying to pretend I'm sleeping. If I pretend perhaps it will really happen.
There's a whole other post in there somewhere, but it's not for today.
Finally I tiptoe out of bed and pull back the curtains.
I catch my breath, startled afresh by the stark beauty of the winter world.
Evergreen branches bow, weighted by heavy snow. The folds of thick coated earth gleam darkly in the midnight hues; The earth is dark blue and black and every shade between.
The neighbour's lights glow orange against the blues and I can't resist opening the window to take a postcard shot.
The cold Christmas air seems to shiver with silent expectation. The heaviness of the snowfall muffles even the sounds of nature itself and I am quieted by beauty.
I light a candle and place it on the windowsill before getting back into bed.
On the radio, the Band Aid hit plays and for the billionth time, I think about those who DO know it's Christmas.
Not in a way which disregards the starving: those afflicted by disease, drought, extreme poverty. That song was for them, and thank goodness for Geldoff and his incredible dedication to the cause.
But I can't help of think of those for whom the knowledge that it is Christmas, brings none of the excitement or seasonal cheer; none of the hope or expectation that glows around us, warming like a father hug; none of the childlike joy that pervades despite having shed the skin of youth.
For some, all that makes us glow, serves as a cutting reminder of what they have lost: loved ones, people suffering with terminal illness, the elderly, the lonely, so many.
I light my Christmas candle for those who have gritted their teeth and closed their eyes in the hope that they can make it through today and tomorrow. For those whose darkness feels even deeper next to the (often superficial) brightness of Christmas.
I pray (in honesty, without much hope) that the true magic of Christmas may be known in hearts that feel desperation and dread at this time of year.
(And yes, it's an almost impossible time for those with eating disorders, so I guess I don't get off Christmas lightly either... but I'm thankful that I'm loved today and I'm thankful that I'm not alone.)
Happy Christmas readers.
My prayer extends to ALL of you.