The Importance of Darkness

Mama? Can I just snuggle?

I knew that it was somewhere around 6:00. Frank had already left for work; I was starting to wake up, too but the sun hadn’t yet peeked through our curtains. Normally, we try to keep Bea in bed until her alarm turns green but on this morning, I moved Frank’s pillow closer and tucked Bea in beside me.

Image courtesy of Debby Hudson.

I’ve been working a lot lately and my part-time job has felt full. Our girls have felt the strain of time and energy. Even though Bea recently asked if I could go back to work so she could have a nanny like our neighbors, being gone so much had an impact.

When Elle misses me, she gets extra clingy, not wanting to be set down. When Bea misses me, she swings between being extra affectionate and being a rabid jaguar. Sunday seemed to lean more toward the jaguar end of the spectrum and I was so tired.

So, when she asked to snuggle, part of me just wanted time before we started our day together. But, I also knew that this girl who thrives on physicality – from hugs and snuggles to running and being active – needed to just be near, to be grounded.

I feel like I’ve needed to re-ground myself lately. I still wake up in a bit of shock over choices being made by our soon-to-be leaders. I’m sickened and sad over the way events are being handled and people are being treated. The divide in ideology makes me so sad and sometimes I wonder if the gap will be bridged.

I swing between wanting to listen, learn, and understand and feeling a bit rabid at the inexplicable fear of a majority culture. So I’m learning to ground myself. To stop for a while and step back. I know I can do this – that my own privilege allows me to turn of the news and curl up with my family – but I do it anyway, knowing that as someone with privilege, I can’t burn out.

Advent drawing 2015
Image courtesy of Corbin Hillam.

As we near Thanksgiving, I look over our Thankful Tree, hanging between our dining room and living room. Hiking, bath night, neighbors, PBS kids, cheese, community, walking to school have all made the list. I love having this tangible reminder of the tiny things I am so grateful for.

In so many ways, I’m glad Thanksgiving falls right before Advent begins. To celebrate with a feast of thankfulness (regardless of historical accuracy) seems to be the best way to prepare for this coming season when we celebrate the dark anticipation of hope come to this world.

Last year, I clung to Advent in the wake of attacks on Paris, of injustice after injustice happening here in America, as the refugee crises continued to swell. This year, things seem so much better in some ways and yet are still so bleak in others. And so, I will take time this Advent season to remember and pray. Perhaps it won’t be as public this year, but the habit of remembering and acknowledging in this darkness is so important.

This December, I want to light the candles and remember the way of peace, of hope, and of reconciliation.

How do you recognize Advent in the midst of Christmas celebrations?

For a beautiful series of community prayers around Advent, check out our Praying in Anticipation series from last year.

Small Acts of Faith and Justice

Frank and I have been watching An Idiot Abroad on Netflix. Created by comedian Ricky Gervais, we follow his friend, Karl as he experiences the Seven Wonders of the World. The twist is that Karl is a homebody and is very critical of travel. I have laughed until I got teary; Frank has fallen asleep more often than not. But, it holds his attention enough that we keep coming back.

In the last episode we watched, Karl visits Petra in Jordan. As he’s preparing to go, he makes the observation that (and I paraphrase),

It’s better to live in a hole looking at a palace rather than living in the palace because the view is better.

Because of his comment, Karl spends a night in a cave with a view of the monastery. The next morning, as he is looking at the view, he comments that his point is proven – who would want to look at his cave when they could wake up looking at such impressive architecture.

I’ve been thinking about this twist in perspective. How if we just turn around, our view is so much different. It’s not that it takes a grand move or great effort – it just involves looking the other way.

How often do I focus on the cave I’m looking at – the injustice, all that is wrong with the world, my own small gripes – when I simply need to turn around and see the beautiful palace behind me – the ways in which people are making changes, the distance we’ve come, all my own privilege.

12009816_10156153220155046_7104302124610833731_nAt MOPS last week, we talked about race and reconciliation and what we can do as moms. Sometimes it feels as though I can’t do anything. I get so caught up in playdates and temper tantrums and nap times that I forget I can do something. It may not be big or immediately world changing, but it can change my focus, it can help build foundations for Bea’s and Elle’s worldviews, and it can change the world one person at a time. We talked about the simple act of talking with another mom at the park or of offering to help a struggling family with homework can help change the systemic problems in place. As Sarah Bessey says in her book, Out of Sorts,

Seemingly small acts of faith and justice are still acts of faith and justice.

I struggle with finding that balance between small acts of justice and slacktivism. How can my small acts change the world without simply forgetting about it after I reshare an article on Facebook?

I think it does start with a change in perspective – of looking at the monastery rather than the cave. Of seeing all that has been done before getting bogged down with all that still needs to be done. Of remembering the moms and small acts that were done before me – that the world is changed one person at a time, even though that seems so slow.

So this week, I’m focusing on shifting my perspective. I’m looking for small moments to seize and for ways to model the act of world changing, even if it does happen at the park.

How are you changing the world in small ways? And, would you rather live in a cave with a view of the palace or in a palace with a view of the cave?