Thursday, December 20, 2012

#KeepingAdvent: "The Art of Being Unprepared"

"Yeah. I'm about to pop. Pop you in the mouth for saying that."!! (It never ceased to amaze me that being pregnant seemed to give everyone permission to comment freely on my size. Nothing like hearing, "You're so big!" every day for months).

I delivered two of my children in early January.  This means that twice, I spent Advent extremely pregnant.  I outgrew that cute little basketball belly the women who model maternity clothes have around 5 months, so by 8 months I was huge.  My pants wouldn’t stay up, I was bloated and uncomfortable, not to mention grumpy.  People pointed and stared at me on the street.  Strangers asked if I was expecting twins.  I endured these things along with the baby’s pokes to my ribs and kicks to my bladder. I sat in church, shifting back and forth in the uncomfortable pew distracted by indigestion, sore feet and the occasional sciatic nerve pain.  I listened to readings about John the Baptist urging us to “be prepared” like some kind of feral boy scout.  “Easy for you to say.” I mutter to myself.  “I am too tired to prepare lunch, much less ‘the Way of the Lord’.”

 These were not Advents that I was particularly organized about getting all my gifts wrapped or Christmas cards mailed.  They were not Advents that I gazed peacefully at the candles in the Advent wreath.  It felt like I went to church more out of habit and obligation than desire. Despite this lack of planning and preparation and general bad attitude, these were the Advents that I really got IT-- that feeling of awe and expectation, that deep knowing that whatever was coming was bigger and better than I could predict, bolder than I could imagine and more life altering than I wanted to think about. These were my second and third pregnancies and I knew that while I needed to prepare for these children, the neatly folded onesies and tiny footed jammies weren’t going to get me any farther than decorating the Christmas tree would prepare me for the coming of Jesus.  I knew that no matter how much diaper creme I bought or how many times I read the car seat manual, the real preparation was being willing to be knocked down and run over, to have everything familiar stripped away, to stumble through the dark and end up basking in the light of a new life.  To get there, I knew that I would have to cry and groan and push and struggle like generations of mothers had done before me.  But eventually, I would hold out my shaking, sweaty arms and take hold of a baby that would instantly change me, that would shake my center and crack my heart open like a walnut with the gentle stroke of a tiny finger. I knew that despite my insufficiencies and imperfections and unpreparedness that I already had a fierce and abiding love for this baby and that somehow and someway that would be enough.

It is Advent again and I am still not very organized.  I haven’t figured out what presents to buy for who or ordered the photo Christmas cards.  We are several days behind on the Advent calendar and the house is a mess. This Advent, the world seems darker than ever.  I read the papers and listen to the news late at night and it feels like bad is trumping good. But sometimes, when my youngest is napping, I creep into his room, lean over the crib, listen to the gentle murmur of his breath and remember.  I remember those Advents that I was full and round with awe and expectation, simultaneously petrified and giddy with excitement. I remember what it was like to wait for what I knew would be the best Christmas gifts I had ever received.  It is Advent again and I remember that the most profound and amazing experiences are the ones that you cannot fully prepare for.  I remember that part of getting ready is realizing that our preparations barely scratch the surface. So I wait and hope and try to see the Light flickering in the night and I brace myself to be knocked over once again and to have my heart shattered by Love.

Written by Sarah White


Frannie said...

... Sarah -- you cracked my heart open. Many thanks for this moving Christmas gift. Lovely. Truly LOVELY.

Angela S. said...

Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece, Sarah. It is so hard to stay focused on what Advent is all about. You really nailed it! Thanks for the reminder. You are a fabulous writer!