fourth candle

Well, here we are again, the fourth week of advent and I'm afraid that I've squandered this beautiful season of waiting and stillness by scurrying around, making, ordering, researching, doing. How hard it is for me to keep the quiet in this busy time! Perhaps I need to declare a fast from so much doing. What would it look like to simply not make gifts, nor decorations or cookies or holiday cards or any of those other things that I love so but end up costing too much in my spirit and my ability to move through these days slowly, calmly, open to any opportunities for hospitality and love? Of course balance is the answer, right? Not extremes. It's just that my balance always seems to be tilting toward busy, slipping towards more instead of less.
We found out last week that in addition to Willa's dairy allergy, she also can't have wheat, soy, yeast or chocolate. And this has set me reeling a bit ... trying to figure out how to feed her (and myself, as long as I'm nursing) without making separate meals, and with plenty of protein and fat and calories. It's necessarily taking quite a bit of time these days, thinking, planning, reading and learning. It will get easier, of that I'm confident, but for now it's a bit inconvenient, to put it mildly. (Inconvenient but totally worth it. She's already sleeping so much better and the thought that she's been in pain for the last 13 months is enough to make this baker gladly banish flour from her kitchen.)
So I'm letting go ... holiday cards this year will be New Year's greetings. Willa's Christmas presents will be done in January. Christmas cookies are just going to be different this year. (But hey--several of those cookies you all recommended as dairy free options are also flour-free. And there's always marshmallows!) Traveling will be a challenge. I'm figuring out which restaurants have gluten free options ... did you know that many fast food french fries are dipped in flour before being fried? And that soy sauce has wheat in it? Oy vey.

In the midst of all this scurrying and learning and trying to say no, it's good to remember Sunday's lectionary readings and hear of Mary, being told by an angel that she will bear the Savior of the world, and to hear her amazing, impossible "yes." Yes, she says, to public ridicule and shame, to disappointing and perhaps losing her betrothed, to swollen ankles and a sore back. Her advent wasn't easy either--nine months of pregnancy culminating in a donkey ride and labor in a stable. Her advent--and Christmas too--wasn't cozy and calm, one great feast of homemade goodies and twinkling lights. And if Christmas is about anything it's about God coming near, about learning to see God in the middle of our crazy days, in the midst of pain and sleeplessness and grief.

So maybe Advent doesn't have to be the rarefied season of stillness and quiet that I imagine.  Maybe it's ok for it to be busy and harried just as life so often is. God, after all, entered into human life just as it is, not as we want it to be. He envelops this world with love, says Padraig O Tuama, just as Mary swaddled her babe, just as we wrap our gifts.

So if you are up late addressing cards, wrapping presents, baking or traveling, if you are feeling stressed and tired and far too busy, I invite you to just embrace that busy-ness right now instead of bemoaning it. Look for God in the wrapping paper, in the flour bin, in the ever-ticking clock. Yes, let go wherever you can, simplify as much as possible, but then feel God's peace in the midst of the storm instead of waiting for the storm to be over. It's there, and you can carry that stillness with you as you go.

The peace of the Lord be always with you, my friends.

1 comment:

Liese said...

Ahh, you're so right! With music waiting to be practiced for 4:30 and 7:30 on Christmas Eve and again the next morning, Sophia needing a ride to DHMC for radiation tomorrow morning, and my daughter's family coming for dinner on the 25th (after church, but they'll bring lots and help!) I hear what you write, feel, experience. Ken is gluten free and I count carbs because of his diabetes. Sounds like you are up vs. even more care but you're creativity and willingness to say YES have already moved you forward! Bless you all. Written too quickly. Hope it makes sense.

God IS with us -- right in the midst of each activity, each distraction, each breath. Amen!