A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of spending a morning at The Huntington Gardens in San Marino, California. As I strolled through the Desert Garden, admiring various aloes and cacti, I was reminded of the profoundly hopeful truth that beautiful and healing things can and do grow in those places that on the surface appear to be least capable of nurturing life.

This Advent season, I have needed to hold fast to that truth.

As I think of the young men I encounter at Camp Miller and the pressures they will face when they return to their ’hoods…

As I think of the children in my neighborhood who struggle to read at grade level and the negative outcomes that frequently attend low reading proficiency…

As I think of so many families who lost loved ones far too soon over the course of this year…

I wish for all of us a hope as resolute and lovely as the flowers that adorn sidewalks, deserts, and other hard places of our world.


The most exquisite flowers
spring up
in the least likely spots—
lending splashes of color,
     and grace
to landscapes otherwise barren,
     and drab.

Their slim,
seemingly flimsy stems
mask the strength it must take
to push through hard earth,
     or weeds
on valiant quests
     toward sunlight
     and rain.

As I breathe in their scent—
     a heady mixture
     of sweetness and tenacity,
     resilience and hope—
the petals of my own stunted spirit
begin to unfurl,
and I turn up my face
     as I stretch toward the sky.

© 2012
Alexis Spencer-Byers


After two weeks of thinking about it, I still don’t know how to introduce this poem, so I offer it without preamble, hoping that it will independently communicate the yearning that this season tends to stir up in my heart as I consider all the things that are not yet as I wish they were in the world…


It’s that time again—
another season of watching and waiting
above and beyond the myriad anticipations
already engaged in from day to day:
the anxious speculation
            about how much month will be left
            at the end of the money
the agony of wondering
            whether vulnerable children
            will make it home safe and whole
the fervent hoping that the roof won’t leak
            until the rainy day fund has been replenished
…that the car won’t break down
            on the far side of town
…that a carelessly launched bullet won’t find its way
            through a shattered window
            or a flimsy wall
…and that a lack of insurance won’t prove to be
            the difference between living and dying. 

To all these, something more is added.

These weeks of shared suspense
spur us to look past survival to Shalom—
to the longed-for reality
in which there is no want
            no violent taking of life or things
            no snuffing out of hope
            crushing of dreams
            or fanning of the flames of hatred
but where the One who once found no room
            at the inn
prepares a lavish welcome
            for those weary wanderers
            who have waited long enough.

© 2011
Alexis Spencer-Byers