A Quiet Christmas

They say “beauty will save the world”, and I know it’s true. I know how beauty stands alone in the dark, in the quiet, and holds out hope for redemption to a world looking for a fix. I’ve held it while the world has slept on and spun round and out of control. I’ve held this kind of beauty in the palm of my hands, tiny and helpless and completely dependent on me. In the bend of my arm, the squeeze of my embrace, and in my lap as we crossed oceans and continents after our adoption, beauty that saves the world has been mine to hold.

Those first days at home are a special kind of quiet—not silence, necessarily, but permission to check-out of life, all the whirling world excusing your absence and even bringing you meals. I remember the first days with each baby and how tired, how depleted I was, yet how full. Life was a cycle of waking-feeding-changing-sleeping, and no one cared how the house fell apart. The dark of night or early morning covered some of the most tender times, as well as tears and frustration and great worries about tomorrow.

This is how Christmas feels to me. {Click here to read the rest of this essay at kindredmom.com.}

A Benediction for Your Disappointments (just in case the day doesn't go as planned)

I remember being a little girl and throwing the classic tantrum on my bed—legs battering the mattress, arms flailing, wails of injustice running from my throat. I don't recall the offense now but I am sure the pitched fit was completely rational, as they all are. I'm sure it was some very large violence done against my very small-self. Not getting my way has always been devastating.

Disappointments, like all things God uses in my life, can break up the soil of a stagnant heart. Big or small, insignificant or completely life altering, when something disappoints so much that I want to pitch a fit, I know that my focus has been stolen or skewed or momentarily seized by unattainable ideals. Otherwise, I could accept the turn of events as another Thing Sifted Through the Hands of God. If my focus were right I wouldn't be pulled into the spiral of a grown-up tantrum, which consists of sitting on my bed, stewing in unspoken thoughts, and punching imaginary walls.

This is part of life, though. Being disappointed is part of a longing unfulfilled and this world was not meant to satisfy all our desires and make us spoiled brats. We are struggling to live in two worlds, redeemed from disappointment but still disappointed. We want more than one world can offer.

And hello. We are often a let down to others with high hopes.

Lowering my expectations is probably not the answer. Instead, I try to be reminded that all my hope is in Christ, Who is both in this world and in another completely disappoint-less one, a kingdom eternal. The desire for more than this world can offer is the fuel for high hopes, and when plans fail or people fail or all hell seems to break loose, that desire for more reminds me to look at the smallest victory available in the moment. Because Christ is here, there is always something to see.

May you find small victories today, priceless and precious in a world of Big Things. 

When a child smiles, may you see the face of God. When a child cries or complains, may you be the face of God. 

May you have grace for the graceless and guard your words for the sake of your weaker brother. 

May you bear up under the disappointments of others. 

When the moment doesn't turn out the way you hoped, the way you imagined, may all your hope and imagination turn to a coming kingdom. 

And when you find something perfect—a moment, a word, a mood, a song, a picture, a taste, a smell—may you give thanks for the bit of eternity you've seen.

Remember when we stopped everything on a Monday and the world didn't end?

They say over a million people flooded Oregon this past week, driving flying plugging up our roads and prompting all the "get off my lawn" sentiments from the beaver state. People actually spent their vacation time and money to come here for two minutes of darkness. I hope the light offered them more than they bargained for—it's a beautiful state and its glory deserves the full light of day.

We like our Oregon. We like our light traffic and sparse towns and rural American dreams. We live in a monopoly of beauty and I suppose we're all love your neighbor and world peace until the world shows up on our doorstep, true colors bleeding out.

We heard predictions that I-5 would be backed up for a hundred miles, that gas would run out, grocery store shelves would be empty, and mass hysteria might break-out as darkness descended. Dire predictions probably increased sales last week and I know hotels and AirBnBs more than quadrupled their rates, but we all survived. I didn't hear any apocalyptic prognostications coming true.

And I know—we're all over the eclipse now. It's finished and we're done and all the build-up was exciting but nobody cares to read another thing about how cool it was, especially if you were among the majority of people who didn't get to see it. I know.

This is what sticks with me, though: we stopped our normal Monday lives and set aside our typical slavery to the schedule and the world didn't end. People left their offices and homes and regularly-scheduled-programs for an hour on a Monday morning and shared in something collective, something rare and phenomenal, and it didn't kill us.

Total eclipses don't happen every day and if they did, it wouldn't be worth stopping our lives for. We couldn't designate an hour every Monday morning to gaze at the sky with silly glasses on. But maybe there are routines already in place that show us how to make sudden stops?

If I'm terribly sick on a Monday the world will continue to spin without my keeping pace. If one of my kids gets hurt, whatever project or pursuit I was in the middle of will take a backseat as I rush that child to the doctor and make sure they get the treatment they need. And if relatives from out of state show up at my doorstep, unannounced, whatever plans I had made can be altered to accommodate their visit. Ask me how I know.

Interruptions may be unexpected, but they are also routine— we can count on them, even if we can't see them coming. They show us that we can stop.

The eclipse shows us that we can stop for good things, too, and not just those unexpected and unwanted emergencies.

The things that are important, but neglected, may need to reach emergency, this-only-happens-once-in-a-great-while status before we'll pay attention to them. You want to spend time with your kids, your spouse, your neighbor; you would love to read that book, finish that project, write that story; you know time is slipping away and your kids will all be out of the house before you know it, and you want to create memories with them beyond the daily nagging and quick meals together.

This is cheesy, but maybe you need a total eclipse of the schedule, my friend. I know I do, and I'm not the busiest person around. I purpose to live a slower life, though a busy husband and kids and commitments conspire against me. I've cut things out of my life that are less important and pared down to my essentials and still, the list of things I "have" to do bullies the list of things God has called me to do.

If we want all the good, important things to come closer, between us and the blaring necessities of day in and day out, we have to make them an event. Put them on the calendar. Give the most important things a time and a place.

Remember when we stopped everything on a Monday and the world didn't end? We can do that again.