if i give you me, would it be enough?

11012191_975360895858913_6670742371155085826_nWhile handing out Christmas cards to friends in the community this week I was told, “Most people are only lovely at Christmas, but you are lovely all the time.” I was a bit tongue-tied as I wasn’t expecting a response like that when I was just passing through on my way home. I had those cards printed and signed for people in my life I wanted to bless with prayers of peace this season. I wasn’t really supposed to figure into their thoughts at all apart from them feeling loved and appreciated. Those words stopped me and turned my thoughts to the gifts we give people.

What if the best gift I could really give people is me? What if the best gift you could really give someone is you? These aren’t vulnerability questions. They are value questions.

What are you worth? You, with all your quirky likes and dislikes. You, with all the unique talents you possess that you don’t even think others would want to know about? Your smile. Your laughter. Your forgiveness. Your friendship. Your love. Your hospitality. Your handshake. Your kindness.

What are others worth to you? Him, with all his quirky likes and dislikes. Her, with all the unique talents she possesses. His smile. Her laughter. His forgiveness. Her friendship. His love. Her hospitality. His handshake. Her kindness.

Although I absolutely love the festiveness of the season we are in, those celebrations have very little to do with another event that lives in the depths of my soul. God gave us him.

“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).” (Matthew 1:22-23 … an explanation during Joseph’s inner turmoil about finding out about Mary’s pregnancy)

If I didn’t believe in Jesus I would still keep the Christmas traditions. We don’t exactly have too many feast & festivity dates on our calendar and I am convinced that we need them to help build healthy societies, even if they aren’t for spiritual purposes. I am also convinced that we could all do with at least a little of God with us, even at that moment when he seems so small and insignificant – a baby, a promise. The King of kings. Love incarnate. Prince of peace. Everlasting father. Saviour of the world. God with us … If there is any loveliness in me throughout the year it is because I walk with him and he makes me complete. I give you me because he gave me him. I took him up on the offer.

What gifts can we give that will last this year? What gifts will we recognise and accept from others?

my love for smithfield: sparks bistro

2015-08-12 16.34.56-1“Good morning! How are you?”

Eyes shine behind a genuine welcome at Sparks Bistro whether it is a busy day or a quiet day. “It is good to see you. What can I get for you today?”

Service is laced with the joie de vivre of staff who love their place of work as much as the regulars do. It is a beautiful little gem in Smithfield where elegance is understated in the simplicity of the open plan cafe. Decadent sauces sizzle from the kitchen on the other side of the counter while the lunchtime crowd fills every inch of floor space. Chef, Guiseppe Cipolla, creates daily specials that intertwine an Irish style with exotic influence: sea bass, Wicklow lamb, steak, chicken, salmon, cod … all paired with veg and sauce that melt in the mouth. With good food in front of you and lively conversations you could forget the world for an hour.

2015-08-12 16.33.18-1In the morning, afternoon or evening you might just find a quieter table to have a more intimate conversation or get some work done. That is how I ended up in Sparks for the first time. Laura and I met at the table beside the window shortly after Sparks fully opened in January of this year.  Comfortably situated, we began putting together plans for C Squared – the community creative project we are working on. It didn’t take long before I began to bring everyone who came to visit or suggest to friends that we meet for coffee, lunch or dinner either in the main room of the bistro or, on a special occasion, in the beautiful tea room in the back.

2015-08-14 12.50.13-1On a long summer evening, Sparks takes on the feel of a classic European local in the making, situated in its perfect corner of the world. Confident in good food, good wine, good service and good friends – what more do you need unless you are searching for the chaos of hurried crowds searching for a night out. And in this city, Sparks is affordable with a two course dinner menu for under €17. You’d be hard pressed to find something equal in quality of flavour or service off Grafton Street for twice the price.

Perhaps Sparks is a small influence on the city that Dublin will become. With rich hospitality and excellence in the smallest things, Hassan Higazy and his staff take the finest things of local community living and create something extraordinary.