It is December. We’ve hung the magnetic Advent calendar I made four years ago on the nail in the kitchen. We’re opening the first door in The Advent Book tonight, and beginning that journey through the miracle story. On Sunday evening we lit our first candle, our first flare sent up, Light come back into the world. These are the things we return to, over and over.
And as this month begins, I find once more that I am two women in December. One woman makes lots of lists. Everything we need, from everywhere we go in the most traffic-congested part of town, so we only have to make one harrowing Saturday trip in that direction. She orders most purchased gifts online to avoid more of the afore-mentioned harrowing trips, and to keep within the budget. She organizes materials for handmade gifts and stitches and glues and assembles and wraps. She eyes the calendar carefully as invitations and community event fliers and announcements of school programs roll steadily in, trying to say yes to the important and leave lots of margin. Sometimes she scrambles, to keep the menus halfway healthy, to keep the house calm in the flood of decorations and young excitement, to keep things steady.
And there’s another woman. She pauses three times daily with old words woven, She stops with a pile of folded laundry to consider the one candle burned lower than the others, wax pillar shorter but a sign of hope growing brighter. She lets these tall boys do more of the decorating and doesn’t move things around while they’re at school. She lets it be, remembering footed pajamas and over a decade now of oats and glitter on frosty grass. She remembers to pause on a lovely afternoon, and lift her head, and notice the bare tree-lace etched against the deep blue sky, and breathe all the way down to fill her belly. She remembers that good enough is often good enough. She remembers she is a waiting woman, one who walking in darkness has begun to see a great light.
It is the old Mary-Martha thinking, the desire to make one woman good and the other bad. To want to take the stubby pencil away from the list maker and make her paint the frozen sunrise.
But the fact is, these two December women in me need each other. For mammas everywhere, even the ones who have asked the questions and said yes, even the ones who have said careful no’s, there is just More in December. More crafts and activities and family commitments and spending and scheduling and juggling. And in the meantime, the daily round of meal preparation and laundry and school paperwork and bill paying go on.
The first woman, with her lists and coupons and order confirmations and embroidery floss and hot glue frees me up to be the second woman. The organization and preparation make space for full presence in prayer, with loved ones, and doing the meaningful things this Advent season holds. The question between these two women is not which one is good and which one is bad, but who is most needed in the moment. The planning and discernment, instead of being barriers to presence and peace, become doorways to rest and contemplation, when I take the invitation to lay my pencil down.