The radar was blank—not even a blip on the screen.
True, I’ve been distracted. There’s been so much action and activity surrounding my life recently— the usual busy-ness of our business’ seasonal work, planning for a wedding (here in 4 weeks!), getting a son into college, homeschool finals for the other, ministry commitments….laundry issues (now resolved!)— nothing major you know, just the common chaos.
Add to this, the holiday season on the horizon and how our usual plans for Thanksgiving were also nearly turned inside out by the discovery of water damage in our usual location. However, thanks to the willing work of an able family member, most of us were gathered in from various parts of 4 states, eating, visiting and goofing around under the same roof. As usual, it was different but we were thankful to be together again.
Similar is our goal and different is our family’s accepted “normal”!
So it never occurred to me to think or ask for more than what was already happening— this was good! I didn’t wish for a previous set of holiday circumstances. With the gracious help of Wisdom, I’ve spent a lifetime learning to find contentment where I am— here today, in the BEing and have never lacked for opportunities to practice—like it or not!
Still, it irked me when some strange stalling around seemed to keep us from our usual post-dinner walk by the river, followed by my sister in law announcing she’d “found someone in the driveway!” Great…now we’d never get out the door.
Turning around…there stood my daughter and her fiancé— fresh off the road from a 10-hour drive and COMPLETELY unexpected—yelling “Surprise!!!”. It was as sappy as it sounds with clapping, crying, squeezing and squealing…very “Hallmark Holiday Special”!
People… it shocked the sugar out of me!
With their wedding right around the corner, we knew they weren’t coming— and wouldn’t have except for the kindness of their coffee shop regular. “Mr. Mike” heard they would not be going “home” due to finances, etc and an hour later, he showed up with a bank envelope…insisting. This was followed by visits from a regular stream of “Friends of Mr. Mike” who continued to bless them.
It’s a wonderful life, you know!? Yes it is!
Finally piling out the door for our walk, we laughed and joyfully relived all the details behind making this moment of surprise possible. My daughter, however, said she may live to regret ever doing this once because now I’d be expecting it to happen again! No, I reassured her soundly— that’s not something I would do—not something I should ever do. At least… it’s something I’m learning not to do.
I mean, don’t get me wrong— I love a sweet surprise! But, as I said earlier, I’ve been learning the art of contentment. It’s the delicate balance of remembering the good things with fondness, while holding them loosely. It’s trying hard not to crowd out the joy and beauty of the NOW with the longing for the all the things of THEN, or even with the fears of what MIGHT NOT BE.
It’s not easy. It takes conscious practice to move gracefully forward so that I’m never overwhelmed by the cumbersome weight of holding too tightly to good things that must inevitably change.
As I’ve been thinking about this past week and towards the weeks to come— what these holy days might or might not look like as the years go by has occurred to me. I’ve been thinking hard about what needs to be most important to me. In the midst of all my pondering, the Spirit has pointed me to a beautiful moment recorded in 3 of the 4 Gospels. It’s not a moment typically associated with this time of year but maybe… it should be.
Jesus has gone up “a high mountain” taking three of his 12 disciples off for some alone time. Wow. What a privilege! It gets better. At some point, Jesus is “transfigured”… before their eyes, His appearance is transformed into a state of divine beauty that can barely be described in words. It’s gloriously beautiful and terrifying to them as they see their Rabbi visiting with Elijah and Moses at the same time.
Peter, (dontcha just love that guy?! — never knows what to say though it never keeps him from talking!) exclaims: “ Let’s build some shelters as memorials”! In other words…. “This is so wonderful! We should stay here FOREVER or at least come back here as often as possible”! In that instant, a “Voice from heaven” says, “This is my dearly loved Son, do what He says.” Jesus’ response is to head back down the mountain telling them not to say a word. Wow.
I don’t know about you, but this strikes me in a couple of ways. First: they were with Jesus y’all. WITH Him. Given the chance, they would have chosen to cling to the moment versus following Him to the death and the glory beyond He spoke of moments later.
Secondly: Jesus doesn’t agree or disagree that the moment is, indeed wonder-full— after all, He invited them to it. He knew it was there. But He moves them beyond… to carry what was learned and experienced there into the next moment.
For me? That’s now.
The next moment from then— is always now. This encounter invites me to recognize Him in the glorious moments of the past and the now and then encourages me to move on to hope for and discover Him in what might be next. It keeps me from “building shelters” in places I was never intended to stay and from getting bogged down in melancholy and covered up in roots of bitterness that would keep me from moving into what God wants to do next.
Because it’s what I really want.
I can’t expect all holidays to go “my way” or any other day for that matter. I don’t want to ever “guilt” my family into being or doing anything for the sake of what’s always been done before because that’s not what it’s about. More than that…through these days I want to follow Him— up the mountain and back down to the valley—wherever He leads and it may never look like the year before. In fact— it may have to look totally different each and every time. That’s got to be O.K.
Similar is the goal; different has always been the normal.
I set up the Advent wreath last night.
There was a time when I had 3 small children at home and even this season of waiting looked different. We’d light the candle, read from a story and tuck and kiss into bed. That day is not today.
Still I made the family wreath because Advent— the waiting… the wonder… the Promise is still today. I don’t want to miss it. In this season and for all the seasons to come, I want to be like Him: gloriously transfigured with my face— my heart, shining as the Son.