It was a long, happy Thanksgiving weekend of traveling over the river and through the woods (and back). The children were home from school in all their chaotic glory, and out came the first hints of real Christmas–not October’s Costco Christmas. But today I am savoring this quiet morning at home.
I put my youngest on the bus and went for an early, brisk walk with my neighbor, who afterward invited me to raid her backyard for berry-laden holly. I carried my treasures home in a basket and shut fast the door behind me. The wind is howling, and I’m in for the duration. The cupboards are somewhat bare, but I can’t bear to go out, so I’m contemplating an omelet for supper tonight.
I want to be especially quiet today. Yesterday, a magazine, Guideposts, that accepted a piece I wrote sent a crew to conduct an interview and take photos. For four hours.
I’ve been dipping my toes in the waters of writing out loud. As much as I wish to send my words out into the world—I found myself feeling squeamish about the shoot. How did I come to be the subject of my essay? I’m not accustomed to being on the other side of an interview, and I’m certainly no pro at talking on camera.
“That was pretty good,” said the videographer. “But did you know that while you’re talking and thinking about something at the same time, you close your eyes?”
No, I didn’t know that.
“Yeah, keep your eyes open. Let’s go again.”
And again, and again…
I maintained a brave face—I joked and I told stories and I tried my darnedest to sound clever—but, once my den was put back to rights after serving as makeshift studio, part of me wanted to crumple. What if my nose looked shiny? Why did I say that? Why didn’t I say the other?
I am a writer, not a talker. When I have something of great importance to say—to my husband or my daughters, for example—I write it down. Words are so dear to me, my desire is to get them just so. Which you can’t do when you’re focusing on not blinking or wondering whether you poofed enough powder on your nose.
And so it goes. I experiment with bigger, bolder, being out there. Then I retreat, hightailing back to safe ground. It’s tricky, finding the proper balance. My natural tendency is to build my introverted buffer—stay back! But eventually I realize I’m all alone—too alone. So I poke my head out—but poke too far and I wind up rattled and exhausted.
The Christmas season is like that—a balancing act. I know Advent is for waiting, for listening, and I long for quiet—and the precious gifts it delivers—down to my toes. One of my heroes, Madeleine L’Engle, wrote about Advent,
“…Waiting for birth, waiting for death—these are listening times, when the normal distractions of life have lost their power to take us away from God’s call to center in Christ.”
As I write this blog post—what is more public than the Internet?—I want to heed wise Madeleine’s words:
“Advent is not a time to declare, but to listen, to listen to whatever God may want to tell us through the singing of the stars, the quickening of a baby, the gallantry of a dying man. Listen. Quietly. Humbly. Without arrogance.”
Yes—because what do I know about anything, really? And yet my heart overflows, and I yearn to pour a love offering onto the page.
I anticipate the hushed, dark blueness of Christmas Eve, of driving home from church and noting the closed restaurants and stores and the empty mall parking lot. In this moment, I know the whole world is waiting in wonder. To prepare, I seek the being still and the knowing. But during December I also want to: order a gingerbread latte at Starbucks, catch a movie in the theater, visit the cathedral for Lessons and Carols, and get dolled up and go to a party. Or four.
My closet is all readiness and expectation, too.
Do you remember Dr. Doolittle’s pushmi-pullyu? This llama-like creature had two heads and two sets of front legs. When one half wanted to move forward, the other half would have to move backward. Disharmony and confusion ensued. Mostly, the pushmi-pullyu didn’t get anywhere.
There was no pushmi-pullyu among the nativity’s friendly beasts—at least I don’t think so—but Lord knows we all have a pushmi-pullyu inside of us. We hardly understand which way is forwards or backwards. We want the best, but we don’t know best from a distant second-best.
I’m so glad He does.
Lord, show me when to sit still and when to stand up and shout. Don’t let me pick ‘good’ when you have in store for me ‘better.’ Guide my hands, my words, and my thoughts this Advent season, and be in charge of my comings and goings, fixings and doings, rest and repose. Amen.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28 (KJV)