The child longs for perfectly presented objects of desire placed underneath the twinkling lights and all the time in the day; for normal life to cease and fantasy land to commence, the imagination alive with possibility.
Anticipation mounts the joy. Mystery multiples the wonder. Hugs are sweeter. The air is thick. It is confirmed: life is good.
The house is (what has become) a familiar sight. Boxes stacked in corners. Cabinets hold only a few essentials. The to-do list ebbs and flows by day’s end. We will celebrate Christmas this year in liminal space – with one foot in our first home and one foot in our forever home.
Stripped of any sense of settled, I have foregone even the dream of the idealized Christmas painted in the classic songs. I have found myself most drawn in gratitude for the Advent truths in the liminal spaces. Wrapped in the rough and worn packaging of ancient texts, I have already received the greatest gifts Christmas has to offer – time spent with a God who reveals what we have not known before, concepts that provide ever-constant openings to a new future, and truths that save me daily.
I find the path one step at a time. The way forward is imagined but ultimately unknown until my leg extends and I place the sole of my foot on the ground before me. From this new vantage point, my eyes scan the ground below and the terrain beyond. My ears discern movement from that which goes unseen but whose presence can impact my next move.
Away from home during this sabbatical year, we are living Advent in an unknown land. The way forward it not known until we extend our legs and find our footing.
Where do the Christmas decorations go in this rental house?
How do we still feel the Advent rhythms away from our church’s rituals?
How do we practice Advent in our small congregation of 5?
Who is this newest little one among us? What will he bring to our family?
When will his nighttime hours extend? How long can my sanity last on just accumulated sleep?
When will strength replace weakness within this body of mine?
What is this world we live in? Will we even recognize this country of ours after January 20?
Where is the rescue to come from for the people of Aleppo, for immigrants, for racial discrimination, for journalists, for our environment, for our souls?
What are we to do in response to all the hurting in this world? Continue reading
Before the mirror, I gaze upon this warped, swollen, scarred flesh of mine. The sight of it fuels the pain I feel, uniting into a combined sensation that knocks me over with overwhelming physical, mental, and emotional fatigue. The shower’s water strikes and I am overcome by the tenderness of my flesh. Sore places cause slow movements, compensating as an attempt to lessen the pain.
In these days following my third c-section, the time I take to clean and care for this body of mine becomes The Time of Reckoning where I face the reality of what is. The act of growing, giving, and sustaining life means wrecking this own life of mine. It is a temporary time but that cannot deny its present power.
If I linger long enough in these moments, the Divine sneaks up on me and saves me. The trembling calms and shifts its shape. I remember the holiness of the Suffering Servant. I remember the mystery that God uses human flesh to birth Hope into this world. I remember the Eucharist truth that body nourishes body.
During these tender days, I am that body. I am that human flesh. I am that suffering servant.
Hope means that I don’t need to know. I only need to yearn.
I only need to recognize how often I am asleep when I live today based on yesterday’s experience, when I interpret the next hour based on the knowledge I gained from the last one, when I let (what I have understood of) what has been dictate the form and shape of what will be.
This first Sunday of Advent, I light no purple candle in a sanctuary. In between feedings, with boys wrestling around behind me and a husband graciously holding a sleeping six-day-old boy, I light a candle in our front room and find times for the scriptures and Rohr’s Advent thoughts. I trust that something is there in those ancient words of scripture and contemplative words of a Franciscan friar that God can bring to the weary and wounded.
“Keep awake for you do not know,” Matthew says.
We rehearsed it as we went from house to house. “Merry Christmas,” we would practice. By the time we got to the next one, the anticipation of ringing the doorbell was too much and the words would fail him. He would just stick out his hand holding the bag of gingerbread to give to our neighbor. Despite our rehearsals and our plans, our three year old is our wild card. Our surprise.
I love the intentional time this season gives to shower those around us with love. The gifts thoughtfully purchased and delicately wrapped. The stove watched over as the gingerbread loaves reach completion to show love to neighbors. The decorations hung around the house to usher in the joy of the season.
The list that once caused me anxiety now gives me a sense of relief as each item is crossed off in completion
Now comes the real Christmas. Continue reading
A new frame holds an old picture on my chest of drawers. Smiles beam on their young faces. Oldest has his arms wrapped around mother and father. Youngest holds on tight to mother. Mother and daughter’s hands intertwined. The photo speaks of promise and hope. Dreams and the unknown.
TIME rushes like a racing train through a tunnel as the voice of my youngest pierces the silence. I am no longer the young daughter clinging tightly to my mother. I am now the mother.
How is it that TIME can suddenly go off like an alarm – causing me to sit up and in the haze of sleepiness, wonder where I am and how I got here? Continue reading
Pottery Barn catalogs pile up the stress as the Christmas gift list is still blank. The instagrammed Christmas tree selfies on my newsfeed create jealousy in me as our house is still tree-less. Five days into December and the days seem to be speeding by like a train on the tracks…if I slow down long enough to let my eyes follow one train car, I will feel the whiplash when I see that ten others pass within mere seconds.
In the silence of the morning, I wait. I wait for my mind to settle. I wait for Christmas to sink into this heart of mine. I wait… only to realize that the void of the tangible Christmas items points out the void of the best of Christmas’ intangible gifts…the coziness of a decorated home, the peace of lingering conversation, the magic of the gifting season.
The void echoes and calls out to be filled. Continue reading