I woke early with the day’s list and the appropriate level of panic on my mind:
- Have I left enough time to finish the candy strips I will give to each child?
- Is the menu complete?
- Is there actually room in the oven for all the baked items?
- Should I exercise at the gym this morning or just do the treadmill?
- Did I remember to print the tags for the girls welcome gifts?
- Will anyone but me appreciate the ceremonious candle lighting?
- The kids are growing up; is the activity age-appropriate?
- Does all my planning matter, really, anyway?
We created this tradition when our kids were small to highlight the origins of the Christmas season before we were overcome by its busyness, since our faith stream did not formally include the observance of Advent. I love it. Still, the tiniest shadow appeared at the edge of sunrise, encroaching on my joy and disguised as a feeling of overwhelm. By now, I recognize its shape: Perfectionism.
My good friend, who knows this pet dragon of mine, and who is separated from her own family by several time zones, texted last night reminding me that the perfect evening is one in which all of us can be together—in ten minutes if we so choose. And so we choose, as we have for many years, now. Sure. There have been speed bumps along the way when we had to move it to Dec. 2nd or 3rd. But Dec. 1st Dinner has always happened. And if I don’t feel like it on a given year, or if a family member is on the outs, we have still spurred each other along.
The weight of melancholy pinned me between the sheets, resistance to what is, rising–even as I refused to. But from somewhere out of the great cloud of witnesses, Paul whispered gently (kind of him, since it was early…!), “Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good report, if there is any virtue, anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8, various versions). It was enough to bring me back to the present moment and help me smile.
The house was still dark and only 18 cold degrees outside. In black chenille robe and sherpa-lined slippers, I padded to the family room where the pellet stove was already awake, courtesy of Mr. S, and made a cup of Samantha’s fave, Good Earth tea, to drink with morning prayer.
So it’s 7 a.m. I know about Advent now. I am focusing this week on that great theme from Jesus’ life and ministry: Hope. I’m living in hope. Hope that my body adjusts to new migraine medication, that the things we Americans hope for in a material sense will be realized—though those desires are shifting these days. (Hope that the Seahawks make it to the Super Bowl again…just sayin’…) Hope that the origins of the Christmas season are real. Hope that the beautiful end of all things as promised is real. Hope that the present continues to be infused with Emmanuel, God with us, as I have found it to be. Hope that where such a reality is not yet known, it soon will be—for peace at home and abroad, end to pain and disease, hunger and homelessness, cessation of evil in all its forms.
Meanwhile, my reading moves me to Psalm 138: I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart.
Eerch! Whole heart?
As in fully integrated, completely-functional whole? Nothing amiss? Nope. I’m certainly open to that; just not there yet.
Or, as in the entire thing, becoming whole? Now, that might be closer to doable. I suspect it is related to that “think on these things” bit from Paul’s nudge earlier.
I do give you thanks with most of my heart, except that little teeny part I don’t want to be thankful with just yet, since everything’s not quite perfect, not just yet… If I’m honest, that’s a little harder. But I’m living in hope.
I read on…
(v3) On the day I called, you answered me; you increased my strength of soul.
Strength of soul.
I love, love, love that line.
Here’s some of the rest–a little hope, a little “note to self,” a little prayer…
(v 7-8) Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me, your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. (NRSV)
Happy December 1st. Emmanuel.