Monday, December 20, 2021

Inconvenience and Whining

 This fourth Sunday of Advent fell in a weekend of difficulties, frustrations, and inconveniences. Just the sorts of things that feel like irritating stones thrown into your path, one after another, by God who is trying to do something ... and you're not sure what. 

I said I would not careen into Christmas, but this fourth Sunday of Advent does put that intention to the test. Our Lessons and Carols service at church was at 6:00 last night. This one time each year, I'm in charge of the service, of what happens. Adam gets to sit and enjoy it, which is so good for a pastor occasionally.

But we had a fun and exhausting "big dinner" to attend on Friday night. And farmers market on Saturday morning (and all the labors that lead to that). Cookie baking happened on Saturday, but I was tired, and kept noticing the general slovenliness of the house. I'm waiting to clean until today and tomorrow, but the grime was building up. This irritates me. Adam went back to the school to do classroom work he couldn't do before, from 7:30 - 3:00. He wanted to go back and do more today, but I growled at him and put my foot down. "You are on break!" I said. "We will rest now!" I was saying to myself.

One of my hand chime ladies fell ill and was in the hospital, throwing my musical plans for Sunday night into chaos. I shuffled around and made "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" work somehow, while worrying about her health and feeling guilty that I was even bothered about hand chimes when she was hospitalized. 

I had to practice: 1) a solo with my auto harp (an instrument I'm ill-at-ease on), 2) a duet ("Do You Hear What I Hear?" that I'd arranged and hand-written on staff paper in pencil with many scratches and mistakes, and with only a few words scribbled on the page, scrunched between wonky quarter notes, 3) "O Holy Night," which we'd thrown in there at the last minute, 4) various preludes and the carols, of course.

Then there were candles to put in windows, poinsettias to water, refreshment tables to arrange, holly to snip, more cookies to bake, programs to print and reprint. (How could I make three mistakes in such a simple document?) So Much To Do. And I must do it all with a smile and a happy spirit because I am, after all, the pastor's wife, and I've been doing this for many years, and none of these little difficulties should get to me now. 

But they do. And I have learned self-control over the years to suppress my inner rage at minor inconveniences. Now I simply whine ... at home.

Sunday morning after snipping new holly to replace dead holly in the sanctuary, I suddenly developed a sharp muscle pain in my back, just under my shoulder blade. Adam rubbed it, I took Tylenol, and I went on with my day. But I did ask God, "Really? This childish behavior again from You? We both know you've already got my attention. We both know I have issues with my attitude when things don't go absolutely smoothly. Do you really have to remind me again to slow down and not care so much about the details? I already know that, God!" (I took more Tylenol in the afternoon.)

But I have to relearn regularly to lay down my little idols at His feet and remind myself that they are worthless, lifeless things. Even preparing a worship service can be an idol. All ministry can quickly become an idol because it has the trappings of religion all around it, and it smells and looks like God. But it's not God Himself. It's far too easy to worship the ministry work, and not worship the Lord Himself. As I sit at the piano in the sanctuary week after week (and especially last night), I close my eyes and pray, reminding myself that I'm there to worship too, not just to facilitate others' worship. I disengage my thoughts about what key signature I'm supposed to be in, whether my voice will cooperate, whether this or that song was the best choice; I turn my mind around again to worship. 

Today, we rest.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021


 Home is the quietest place, the place most calming to the spirit. I'm home as much as possible, and it heals me. I'd never considered how homeless Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were, after they left  Nazareth. How utterly homeless did Mary feel when they went to the home they were expecting to stay in, in Bethlehem, only to be told that the guest room was already occupied, and there wasn't space for them? "All we can offer you is where we keep the animals." Have you ever lost your home? (We have.) Being without a home is spirit-crushing.

They went from Bethlehem to Egypt swiftly, then to Jerusalem, then back to Bethlehem through Jesus's babyhood till the magi came. When they finally returned to Nazareth, I wonder if Mary let out a sigh of relief and though, "No more of this cray living! I've done enough, God!"

I'm very thankful for my home.

A friend gives me a waxed amaryllis bulb each Christmas. Slowly, so slowly, it rises, and gradually pushes out the first bloom, then the second. But after years, I have large clumps of amaryllis in my flower bed. So many beautiful things come slowly in life.

I celebrated in WalMart yesterday and bought a big, square tin of lovely cookies. I bought 3 bags of chocolate. (One for me, one for Adam, one for Julia. He instructed Julia to take his bag of peanut M&Ms AWAY so he couldn't eat them all.) I bought some new boxes of tea for church. 

The Yorkshire tea, in malty biscuit flavor, is for home, however.

I've decorated, although the outside of the house is devoid of Christmas cheer, I'm sorry to say. I'm at an age where I accept what I can do, and don't worry about what I can't do. In addition to our fake tree, I'm putting the appropriate ornament on our Jesse Tree each morning.

I've placed my little wooden tree with its ornaments on top of the piano.
Our old creche is assembled with its pine cone trees.
And I've hung my woven Advent calendar on a door. I was faithful to snap on only one figure each day for about the first 5 days, but then I couldn't resist; I put them ALL on. It was so much fun! The snaps are stubborn and sometimes don't work. I did save Baby Jesus, however, and will lay him in the manger on Christmas morning.
It's a jumble of figures, isn't it?
Mostly, I'm trying to get a variety of things finished before my daughter and her family arrive next week. Then I want it to be sheer family fun and together time while they're with us. I'm weaving, knitting, making lotions, doing yard work. And making Youtube videos nearly every day, which has been fun! If you have time and want to, go watch :)
I'm trying to be slow like the amaryllis. It's a gentle constant push against the hurry, a steady application of the brakes each day, all day. I choose not to go careening toward Christmas this year. So far ... so good!
Outside, doing yard stuff:
Inside, doing yarn stuff:
In the kitchen, making yummy stuff:
And I'm doing occasional poetry readings:

Monday, December 6, 2021


 It's December 6. In a eye's blink, 2021 will be past. Advent and Christmas, with all their beauty and wonder, will be gone.

So I want to go slowly. As Robert Frost says in "October," -- "Slow! Slow!" He wishes for autumn leaves to fall only one at a time. At that rate, autumn would take all year long!

This past week I met with a dear friend at church, and we did "the greening of the church" for the first time ever. We started small, and we wore out quickly. We do the poinsettias every year, but the green swags of cedar, holly, and magnolia are a new thing.

There are cedar swags on the windows that you can't see here.

Each week I tell myself I'm going to stay HOME and get things done, work in the yard (so much tidying up to do!), and stay happily in my studio. But every day, something comes up -- a grocery run, errands, recycling, doctor visits -- and before you know it the week is gone.

We put up the Christmas tree. Our daughter's new kitten Leo loves to climb in the tree (of course), so he will be consigned to her room quite a bit this month. We're watching Christmas movies in the evening and drinking eggnog and enjoying the twinkling lights in the living room.

The house it quiet now. It's early Monday morning and I have the whole week stretched out before me. I wonder what I'll get done?

I have three scarves to weave, one knitted scarf to finish. Painting, of course -- I'm working on North Carolina's lighthouses. 

Pondering Advent, I read a friend's post about the carol, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." We do plead with the Savior to come and ransom us. Truly we "mourn in lonely exile here."  I once wrote a song about what the world might have been like, if Jesus had never come. A fallen, broken, dark world where no savior, no rescue, ever arrives. How thankful I am for His birth at Christmas! His love pierces the world's darkness, consigning it to the corners. His love pours a balm of healing on all our brokenness. I cannot imagine living without the hope He gives me, of peace both here and after I die. These are my thoughts during Advent, that each year we wait in desperate hope for help in the hovel of our lives. He always comes.