Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent: Busyness, guilt, and the prying open of eyes

It's still advent.
Still a time of preparing and waiting. 

And shopping and baking and cleaning and ornaments and gingerbread houses and wishing for snow and playing in mud instead and cleaning the floors and getting the cat neutered and praying for the sick and publishing a book and wrapping presents and making memories.

I'm trying not to let myself get buried under the gift lists and the baking and the cleaning. But it's hard, isn't it? It is so hard not to let those things take over. 

You know what else is hard? Wrestling with guilt while doing all these things. All the messages everywhere about the real reason for the season, about focusing on what is important, about spending time with family and not rushing through Christmas- they are good messages, but part of me says, come on already!  Things have to get done!  If I just sit around and read my Bible all day, whose going to do the work?!

I'm busy this month, like every month, but more so, and what makes this month different? All the things I am hearing about how wrong it is to be so busy!  Enough already! Leave poor Martha alone!

All right. My rant is over. 
Now I'll try to make peace between these tensions in my head.
Perhaps if I do that, it will ooze over into my life as well.

In this house, the preparing and the waiting look like this.

Pastor Daddy is very busy and we don't see him much. Mom is getting ready for the Christmas party and trying not to throw a hissy-fit when the little boys spend every waking moment deliberately sabotaging every one of mom's efforts to check one single thing off her list. 

They're watching  more TV than normal, despite my newly instituted technology plan. (I reserve the right to break my own rules for the sake of my sanity.)

And yet, Daddy starts our morning off right, with devotions around the breakfast table. Later, mom takes in a few more bites of God's word, in between hurried sips of coffee.

I wanted us to wallow in God's word. to rest in it this month. And I thought that would look more like, well, rest, but instead it looks like work and play and mess and exhaustion.

God with us. HERE.
And yet, God's Word flows in and out of our days. He has hedged me in behind and before, and has put His hand upon me, and it is there even when I am mopping the floors.  Boys wrestle on my lap, and we read Elmo's Christmas, and then one more book, and there is Jesus, and grace.  I change a diaper, and a joking boy reminds me to tease and play even then, and there is grace. Always, there is grace.

I can't throw the lists away, because my calling is here in the work and the busy preparations. But I can quiet the lists, if just for a moment. I can treat myself to a time-out, and I can be still and know that He is God.

I fight, not for the grace, as if it His grace is such a fickle thing that it goes away when I am not thinking about it. No, His grace in Christ is there, all around me, and is more solid than the walls of this house.

I fight for a chance to get my bearings. 
I fight to a chance to allow His word to penetrate my ears, correct my vision, and turn my heart back towards Him.
To confess the losses of temper, the selfish heart, the grumbling; to repent and return to my Father who welcomes me.
To feel the solidness of His love around me. 

I fight to keep my eyes open to His grace.

2 of my favorite ways to pry my eyes open 

Make a gratitude list
If you haven't already, I encourage you to begin a list of "Gifts we already have" with your children. We are approaching 300, and every time we sit down with our list, we come away with a changed perspective.  

We counted the big things, like Jesus and forgiveness and the promises of God.
We've listed crazy things like chairs and toothbrushes. 
We write down funny things, like the nonsensical joke Aggie told, and the way Peter sticks out his tongue when he concentrates.

Grace. All grace.

Read something wonderful
Like God's Word, or the Treasury of Daily Prayer.

Read something wonderful, like this poem, Goodnight Adventwritten in the spirit of Goodnight Moon.
This made me wanted to gather all my children under blankets and read it to them.
So I did.

Read it, please.
What a delightful way to wallow in the Story of God's work in the world.
(Then the kids wanted to illustrate it, so they are. I hope to revisit this one every year.)


Do you struggle with busy-guilt this time of year?
How do you fight it?

PS. Read Goodnight Advent
I'm serious.


  1. Thank you for the link to Goodnight Advent!
    What a great text! I'll be sending it to my son, a pastor in Grand Rapids, and to my own pastor here in Oregon.

    1. That's great!
      Grand Rapids, MI? That's where I'm from originally! Where is your son a pastor?

  2. What a fantastic post - so honest and helpful. Busy-guilt? Yep, definitely in touch with that emotion. I love your suggestion to fight it with gratitude. I think I'm starting the "Gifts We Already Have" list tonight at the dinner table. Thank you!


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