The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, “Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.” …For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
I decided to not have the kids be in the pageant this year.
They did have an opportunity to be angels standing up front “singing” for the shepherds, and no doubt cute – decked out with wings and halos. I mean, come on. But, I couldn’t help think…the world was just not ready for them.
So I went to the 9 am service to hear Andy’s sermon – and enjoyed it – it was all really wonderful. And then I left. I snuck off to a brunch with a moms group at a local bakery/eatery to celebrate over huge slices of french toast and eggs benedict one of the four pregnant moms’ imminent 2nd births. Hers is the end of January so it felt a little more pressing to do it now. We hadn’t gotten together in soooooo long so it was perfect timing for the Advent season. A little bit of joy during such a bleak winter that started out with an incredible snowstorm to…flooding (???) this weekend. As everyone says in Indiana, “If you don’t like the weather, don’t worry. Just wait 5 minutes. It will change.” Either way, even with the delicious snow earlier this month and the many opportunities to play and frolic I was still feeling a little…empty.
Something about this season – all the twinkling lights, trees, and dreamy music – really depresses me. What is it??? Maybe that “forever empty” that Louis CK talked about once feels even more hollow…so to balance out the superficial, gooey feelings that come from too much hot chocolate and cookies, presents with fancy bows, and big toothy smiles…that surely are actually covering up the more realistic exhaustion and stress of this season. I feel it, too. The forced…ness that comes from the pressure to effuse delight and elation would possibly make one implode without some somber brooding. Maybe the darkness helps a little.
But, it’s a season of joy. And with each candle that is lit for Advent more and more light shimmers in that darkness. And it’s the stories that help us see the light and shed light on the way.
One story happened on this particular Sunday. Apparently, while I was gone, Desmond and Anna actually put on quite the show during the Christmas pageant. At the start of the service as they walked into the sanctuary instead of staying with their familiar sitter they willingly let themselves be whisked away to sit with their Bloomington halmuhnee and halahbuji. Right. Up. Front. Andy got up to do the welcome and start with the pastoral prayer while Desmond decided to army crawl up the center aisle and practice his sommersaults. He continued to roll forward towards the chancel with Pastor Rachel trying discreetly but gently to coax him back. As Andy got into the middle of the prayer, Desmond needed more than a gentle nudge so Andy stopped praying and walked over to pick him up. At the end of the prayer he asked Desmond if he wanted to sit with Pastor Rachel to which he responded with a loud, resounding…NO. Andy left to take him down to the nursery. During this whole time, Anna was perfectly peachy and enjoying the whole show.
“Being a parent is dirty and scary and beautiful and hard and miraculous and exhausting and thankless and joyful and frustrating all at once. It’s everything. ― Jill Smokler, Confessions of a Scary Mommy: An Honest and Irreverent Look at Motherhood: The Good, The Bad, and the Scary
Needless to say, there was a lot of laughter. But, why would this provide any more light into the darkness for me? Because there are days when I feel ready to pick up and leave it all behind. I want to drop the kids off at one of the grandparents’ houses (mine are closer – 6 hours vs. Andy’s parents at 10 hours but either way I’d drive 20 hours if necessary) and drive west until I hit the Pacific. I want to cover my head with my blankets, lock the door, and sleep/wakeup/sleep/wakeup/sleep and never leave my bed.
Meanwhile, Desmond is doing somersaults down the center aisle. Somehow he has maybe forgotten that I’m a terrible mother, and that I yelled at him that morning, and maybe gave him only Goldfish crackers for breakfast. I can’t but marvel at him. Anna. Oswald. Because it feels like I’m screwing up all the time with everything but they seem to be undeterred by it.
And that makes me glad.
There really is something to the whole experiencing the world through children’s eyes. Joy seems to always be on the periphery of their vision. They are ready to laugh and ready to make us laugh, too, sometimes. Maybe the joy is the surprise – when it catches me off guard, and when I’m feeling and looking for something else in that parched land, when I’m thinking I need water but it’s the crocus, bright and yellow, persistent in that cracked earth that is the real oasis.