The Fullness of Time

In the midst of this Advent season, a time for reflection and preparation for the coming of Christmas, I've been pushing back the desire to throw up my hands and quit. How is it that the most wonderful time of the year is packed, not with love, peace, joy and expectation, but stress, chaos and exhaustion? These dark days before Christmas aren't holly and jolly, they are filled with garish Christmas decorations and frantic shopping trips. Already full schedules are pushed to breaking with Christmas plays, concerts, extra shopping, and decorating. There is so much pressure to be merry and no extra time to manage all the bright, that it's no wonder the other day I found myself throwing slices of bread at one of my kids after I had first thrown a mommy tantrum over the disorder in our house (because, by the way, it is also impossible to keep a clean and peaceful house this time of year). After the bread flew, we laughed.

A while back, before I had caught on to this Christmas deception, I announced to my mom with my first child in my arms, "It's August." Her reply dripped with dread: "Oh no. That means only three months until Christmas." I laughed awkwardly because...I.had.no.idea. It's a little like pregnancy or having a baby. Nobody talks about the bad parts. Moms hesitate to reveal all the gory details of the birth of a child to the newly pregnant. It would be too scary. Yet, we encourage our newly married to have babies!  We are bombarded with images of happy moms and cute babies. "So much love. So much happiness. You should do it too." These images seem to say. Christmas images are the same. Everywhere you turn, there are pictures of people serenely, perfectly, and joyfully ccelebrating the season.

Yet, as it is with babies and life, Advent is filled with imperfection. It's messy. It's never, ever perfect. It's rarely peaceful. So, again, we as a people moan and suffer under the weight of the human condition. We are weak. We are pulled down by our mistakes. If we do actually take some time to stop and reflect, the voices of the past fill our ears. Voices of regret, disgust, and sadness.

Isn't it interesting that at Christmas we welcome Jesus as a baby? A baby that is full of hope and sweetness, so gentle and so dear. A baby born into a cold, dark, imperfect world. He was born and placed in a manger where cows slobber and munch no less! Just imagine Jesus as a new little baby with perfectly soft skin in a cow trough! Not only that, he was also born into a crazy, frenzied world similar our modern advent season. Joseph and Mary were looking for a place to stay in the midst of hoards of people also looking for lodging, kind of like Christmas shopping. Although Joseph was a just man, he forgot to make reservations during the busy census season!

In the end, the Advent season builds itself up to the crescendo of Christmas day. Our children, already maxed out on sugar and excitement, rip and tear into presents. We crowd ourselves around the Christmas table with family and friends and with stuffed stomachs try to taste just one more bite of the delicious holiday food.

Then, in an instant, it's all over. And what is left? Life. The hum drum and daily grind. We still need that tiny baby. We still need someone to save us. Jesus, the King of Kings, is there. He sleeps in the deepest peace. The world swirls around him, yet he is serene. He's there for each of us just as we are. He's there for me. A mom who chucks slices of bread at her children. A mom who can't get the tree decorated completely or bake a batch of cookies. A wife who fails on many levels to love her husband well. A daughter who forgets to call her parents. A failing friend. A human longing to be saved from my weaknesses, mistakes and regrets.

There he is, snuggled up in hay.
The moment is timeless since he is the eternal.
Be still my soul.
Don't give up.
There is always hope.

"And the one seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new." Revelation 21:5


Sweet 16

We spent Thanksgiving with my family in Montana this year. Adam's work schedule dictated that we come together on Friday instead of Thanksgiving day. That day, November 24th, happens to be our anniversary. So, surrounded by those I love the most in my life and feeling thankful in my heart, I made a toast of gratitude for our sixteen years of marriage. A marriage we came into freely, we gave ourselves to one another totally, we have each remained faithful, and fruitful as we have been blessed with four children.

Admittedly, I am more reflective about our anniversary this year. It is not a round number like 10 or 20, so I think it has more to do with our current ages and states in life. We are both in our forties and have a daughter only three and a half years away from high school graduation. Our marriage is settled now. Most of the sharp edges of disagreements and personality weaknesses have been smoothed out, or at least accepted. We both have made some big steps toward health in the last few years  and fifteen years of parenting has mellowed us out a bit. The new parents we were all those years ago would probably not get along very well with the parents we are today.

I have read about studies on marriage and how people who say they are unhappily married, if they wait ten years, will say the opposite. If I look back to ten years ago, our second child, Clare, was a baby and we were living in our little house in Siletz. Those were tough years, but I do feel grateful for them now. We stuck with it and with each other, even when it didn't "feel" so great. That work we did then to ensure that our marriage remained intact for ourselves, and especially for our children, is like a deposit in our marriage bank. It's extra marital security. As the years continue to roll by, we will continue to add to that deposit.

What a gift. My heart swells with gratitude for my husband and our precious marriage. He's not perfect. I'm not perfect. Our marriage is not perfect, but God's grace builds on nature. Grace has taken the seed of love between Adam and I and has grown it into something we could not have imagined when we started this journey together.


Meet Ruby

This week I purchased a new computer, and it’s just for me. Sure, my son has begged to play games on it a few times, but so far he hasn’t managed to get his hands on it. I’m really hoping this is the answer to my lack of posts woes. Maybe. It is likely, however, that my 13 month old monster may have more to do with that than the old, and very slow, computer.
For instance, just now I wanted to spend a few moments online to catch up on some blogs I follow and test out my new, red, little, special computer. Within five minutes, Matthias managed to empty out some of the drawers of my dresser. Ghosts of my past life, before nursing (yes, he is still nursing) are currently strewn across the carpet. He and his snotty nose (because don’t all little boys have snotty noses this time of year) have moved on. Who knows what he has gotten into now. Thank God for my older children as they keep track of his trail of destruction while I acquaint myself with Ruby (shouldn’t I name this new machine?).

So, say a prayer and raise your glasses to Ruby. Three cheers: hip, hip, hooray, etc.

Ruby, don’t take your love to town. I need some company.


This Present Season

Suddenly we have rain. The blazing summer sun whose heat kept me in sandles and tank tops is covered with bright, grey clouds that keep spitting out bits of rain. The temperature has dropped so that I have to put on socks to keep my toes warm and even a light sweater to take off the chill. My socks are strange and twisted on my feet and my sweater bulky around my shoulders.

It is not unusual for me to feel uncomfortable and restless when the season changes. There is so much I did not accomplish in the last season. There is so much to do in the next. I write lists, goals, and inspirations on slips of paper that promptly get lost in the hustle and bustle of this new season, soon to be over and on to the next.

The seasons of life can catch me off guard at times as well. I avoided the season of being a mom without a baby when Matthias came along a year ago; but a mom with a baby at forty is much different than a mom with a baby at twenty. It too is a new season. It's a lot like fall instead of spring. I take more time to sip and savor the baby moments like I would a cup of tea on a fall day like today. I take note of the minor changes in this little guy like I do the discoloration of the leaves and the crispness in the air. He was able to sit still and take an interest in a book today. I stayed with the moment as long as I could. Soon he'll be in the summer of reading. Now I can guide his little hands and eyes to recognize the letter "E" and the elephant.

It's so different from the baby in the spring of my twenties. I was all in a rush to get that baby to grow up. At the end of today, that baby of my spring season will have completed her first month of public high school. She has been a mostly happy, often haughty, home schooler since 3rd grade, so a step onto a public high school campus in a new town where she did not know a soul, was not easy. To top all the newness off, she is pretty shy, although growing more confident every day. I have been one proud mama as she walks with courage into school each morning sporting her dress code clothing (collared shirts kakhi pants).

And now I cry as I think of her in her season of young womanhood. The wider world is so new to her. I fear the bite and stings she will feel as the reality of life begins to confront her; but I have let her go and experience it for herself. She knows all about the "E" and the elephant. I've taught her most of what I know about the simpler things. In fact, she knows more than I do now (so she thinks). Yet she still comes to me when she doesn't know and I take her hand and teach her slowly what I have learned about friendships, the ups and downs of feelings, success in academics and other more "grown up" kinds of things.

Seasons come and seasons go. Life moves on. I try to hold on to the good. I try to sift out the regrets. I try, but often fail and on days like today. Those intimate and important moments from past seasons, good and bad, rest heavily on my heart. I watch a leaf fall from a tree as I wipe a tear from my cheek. The seasons of life, like the seasons of weather, come and go. They ebb and flow like the tide. They wax and wane like the moon. I cling to one and anticipate the next.

Now I take a deep breath and stand in the present.