A quiet, a calm, but not as the world gives.
This peace is not the absence of conflict. It is the presence of something deeper, something that remains whole even when we are broken.
Peace is a Presence.
Peace is a Person.
It’s the last day of November, and I am scrambling around trying to get the house ready for the decorations I promised the kids I would bring out tomorrow. It’s not looking like I will get everything done on my list. Which seems to be the reality most days, especially with a toddler who can pull things out faster than I put them away.
Our dining room table is at this moment covered with styrofoam shipping popcorn, bananas from the gas station, the neighbour’s mittens, assorted Duplo creations, current family read-alouds, Christmas cards in progress, and (storebought) gingersnap cookie crumbs. I’d post a picture if I could find my camera . . .
The older I get the more I realize there’s no such thing as ever being “ready” for Christmas, or even Advent for that matter. And paralysis can set in with the pressure we put on ourselves when our reality doesn’t match our ideal.
So I’m here to say, if you’re that person whose dining room table looks like mine when everyone else you know seems to have their Advent act together, just take a deep breath. It’s ok. It’s ok if you buy your cookies at the bakery. It’s ok if you don’t have a handmade Jesse tree, or 24 days of seasonal fun meticulously planned out. It’s ok if you lost the plan, or feel like you’ve lost the plot. It’s ok if you don’t have an ounce of energy to think about all this, or even a smidgen of Christmas spirit.
That’s not the point of Advent. Advent is not a time to show the world how much we’ve got it together. Just the opposite.
Advent is a time to acknowledge our mess, and be ok with it. Not because we like the mess, but because there is some One who loves us despite our mess.
The best preparation is the kind that makes your heart whisper, I can’t do this. Advent is for the hungry, the empty, the lonely, the lost, and the ones with yesterday’s dishes still in the sink. Advent is for the ones who long for something more, something beyond themselves and their abilities. Something that mere decoration can never bring.
It’s right there in Mary’s song:
He has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
but the rich He has sent away empty. (Luke 1:52-53)
This is the song of the woman who was preparing for the birth of Jesus. This is the attitude of Advent. And it’s all you need to experience the good things God wants to give you. Not. a. single. thing. more.
The reality of Advent is for your real life. If we need some perfect preparation to welcome the mercy of the manger, that’s not good news at all.
So, yes, I am going to clear the table and maybe even sweep the floor. (Jesus may have been born in a barn, but that’s not the look I’m going for, at least not this year.) And make supper for my family, and keep going with the never-ending list. And smile through the inevitable chaos of decorating with kids and the grand design plans of a seven year old. (Please remind me of this tomorrow!)
But I will remember, at the end of another day, it’s ok. Whatever keeps me humble will also keep me ready.
Advent begins this Sunday! If you’re looking to journey through Advent with another guy who didn’t always have his act together, might I suggest Abraham’s Advent? It’s a four week devotional that gets right to the heart of Christmas.
I will be giving away TWO copies of Abraham’s Advent (downloadable PDF, worth $7 each).
Just comment on THIS post with your favourite Christmas carol or song to be entered into the giveaway. 🙂 Entry deadline: Saturday, December 2, 6pm (EST).
Feel free to share the giveaway on social media! Winners will be announced Saturday evening!
Thea and Jessica, please send me an email at email@example.com and I will send your copy of Abraham’s Advent on its way! 🙂
Happy almost Advent.
Today was the first real snow.
It came in a bluster of northwest wind overnight, somewhat unexpected.
The first hint I had of it was the faint white glow from my bedroom window, when the baby woke me up before sunrise.
My seven year old saw it with her own eyes, and raced into the room to tell me. “A snowstorm!” She woke her five year old brother, and they began making plans involving sleds and snowballs.
While brewing the coffee downstairs, I flipped on the radio to discover that the bridge to the mainland was closed and the ferry wasn’t running. Every once in a while I remember we really do live on an island, and the best laid roads of mice and men are still subject to the whims of the North Atlantic.
But it was a cozy feeling nonetheless as the fire warmed the draughty old house, and I was left alone with my porridge while the big kids rolled snowballs across our giant front lawn, leaving crooked green trails behind. When they had three big enough to stack, the back door flew open and I could hear them rummaging for an extra hat and scarf. “Mom, do we have any carrots left from the garden?”
It never fails. The first snow always makes me smile.
This year I almost didn’t feel ready for it. There were too many things left undone from the summer and fall. Beach toys and tools to put away, and mitts still to find. To-do lists left undone. An unsettling sense of being behind in everything, and because of that a tingle of inadequacy. Like I wouldn’t deserve the joy I always felt, because I hadn’t done enough to prepare for it.
We rummage around for a stub of a carrot, and bundle up the baby. For all she remembers, this is her very first snow, all over again.
“Snow,” we tell her, pointing at the strange white stuff.
“Snow,” we tell her, as it makes crunching noises under her boots.
“Snow,” we tell her, introducing her to the lumpy snowman wearing a pink and purple toque. It is taller than she is.
“Snow!” we all cry.
Her face beams. “Nose!” she shouts. “Nose!”
We can’t help but laugh, and she thinks she’s made a marvellous joke. Who can blame a baby for a little consonant reversal? It’s all so new to her.
And snow has a way of renewing the child heart in me. This is its peculiar grace. I can’t control it, only find a mismatched pair of mittens, brace against the wind, and share in the delight with my kids.
Both wind and snow would clear up as the day went on. A brilliant sun would shine, melting all save for the little snowman that stood defiantly in the middle of the lawn, with a pebble smile under its nose.
I came across this poem by Fannie Stearns Davis today. Nature, freedom, simplicity – Isn’t this what we all need? It’s not just for children.
For A Child
Your friends shall be the Tall Wind,
The River and the Tree;
The Sun that laughs and marches,
The Swallows and the Sea.
Your prayers shall be the murmur
Of grasses in the rain;
The song of wildwood thrushes
That makes God glad again.
And you shall run and wander,
And you shall dream and sing
Of brave things and bright things
Beyond the swallow’s wings.
And you shall envy no man,
Nor hurt your heart with sighs,
For I will keep you simple
That God may make you wise.
~ Fannie Stearns Davis
Today the November rain was warm. I went out bareheaded in the drizzle to grab an onion or two from the garden. I was just going to run out and back in, but something about the rain made me linger. I pulled some weeds, and composted the empty tomato stalks. I picked up some toys on the grass, strewn about by children and winds. I arranged five or so collected rocks on the little picnic table, alternating igneous and sedimentary. I rescued a few rogue clothespins, and tucked some empty pots in the garden shed.
There are times I live too much in my own head. “My brain is tired,” I told Micah as I turned out the light last night. And he said something that turned it all into a joke, and we laughed and laughed in the dark. “Laughter is the best medicine,” my fortune cookie had told me at lunch time. Laughter and warm November rain.