Monday, December 2, 2019

Still and Simple

Last week was a whirlwind of activity, from preparing for Thanksgiving in the days before, and for Christmas in the days after, I think I was on my feet for 8+ hours several days in a row, and yesterday, my body was feeling it.

But then, not surprisingly on the first day of the Advent season, the first day of The Year of the Lord, everything settled into a still and simple silence. Our church body did not meet yesterday, and so we were gifted with a slow Sunday of quiet reflection. It rained, a slow steady rain for most of the day, cool, but not so much that we couldn't keep the patio door cracked a bit to let in some of that brisk wintry air. We're weird like that, we prefer for the air around us to be cold as we huddle under thermal pajamas and blankets. We haven't turned on the heater once this season, so far.  Every year it seems we stretch it out longer and longer, so much that I'm beginning to wonder if we'll turn it on at all this year. We shall see.

Because in past years our Sunday Advent readings have often gone unobserved, this year in addition to putting out our candle display (I'll share that later), I made up these little devotionals, one for each Sunday of Advent. After I printed them and cut them out, I then rolled each one into a tiny scroll, tied it with a pretty red ribbon and tucked them inside the little drawstring bag you see there in the corner.  I lightly numbered each one on the outside, and last night we unrolled the first one, shared the scripture together, lit the candle and listened to the most beautiful almost haunting rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel I've ever heard.  It's become a tradition to listen to it every Sunday leading up to Christmas. Beautiful.

Earlier in the week I had casually mentioned in a conversation with Bill that I had never seen real mistletoe before. I didn't mean anything by it, just stating a fact, really, but unbeknownst to me, he took it to heart.

And so on Saturday night after returning home from a long day of work, he came bearing gifts, fresh mistletoe and holly branches that he had purchased earlier in the day at the market.  And let me just say, I am in love! I never knew mistletoe was so beautiful, and it's sad, really, that its poisonous.  I was going to hang it above the doorways, as tradition would call for, but it's especially dangerous if a pet ingests the small berries, so that will have to wait until closer to Christmas. For now I have it tucked in water in a pretty mason jar (I moved it from the one shown in this photo), and sitting on the coffee table with our Advent candle display.  Every time I look at it, I smile. This man, I really have to watch myself when I say I've never seen, done or want something. He's all about making my dreams come true.

I began my personal Advent devotional this morning. I am reading the book All Creation Waits (Affiliate Link) and I even purchased a devotional supplement, Unearthing Wonder: A Family Guide to Advent published by Peaceful Press (Non-Affiliate). Even though it is designed primarily for families with young children, in all of my years of homeschooling one thing I've learned is that learning and knowledge knows no limits when it comes to age, and we adults are equally as influenced at times by the simple words that can be found within the pages of "children's" books. In fact, children's literature is probably my favorite genre. Call me a kid at heart, I'll proudly wear the banner! And this case is no exception.

Each day of Advent the book and devotional focus on a different animal, and it began with the painted turtle. Painted turtles are rather special to me because my husband has a mild affection for them. But before reading this devotional I was, honestly, a bit repulsed by them. Something about that long neck sticking out of that shell, I don't care for frogs, either. But the illustration that was used in today's devotional touched me in a profound way. Did you know that every year on a day in late fall, a painted turtle takes one last deep breath before it plunges into the pond and burrows down deep in the warm mud at the bottom where it then remains for six months?

"She found her bottom place, closed her eyes and dug into the mud. She buried herself. And then pulled into her shell, encased in darkness . . .
AND SETTLED INTO A DEEP STILLNESS.

Encased beneath the frigid waters,

EVERYTHING IN HER HAS GONE SO STILL, SHE DOESN'T NEED TO BREATHE.

The iced over pond will soon be empty of oxygen. Sunk in the bottom muds, she slows herself beyond breath in a place where breath is not possible. 

It is her one work.

It is the radical simplicity of this act that will save her, and deep within it, at the heart of her stillness, something she has no need to name, but something we might call . . .

TRUST

that one day, yes, the world will warm again, and with it her life."

- All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings

I don't know about you, but for me, I don't think I'll ever look upon a painted turtle in the same way again.

It settles itself in a place so deep, so near death, and yet it is this RADICAL SIMPLICITY, that saves her. Were she to remain above water, she would freeze to death, or become so lethargic that she would become easy prey. And so she dives into the deep, dark mud, depleted of oxygen, and trusts that He, Yahweh, will sustain her, Her ability to squelch the urge to rush up to the surface to draw a breath, allows her to live.

It becomes, her salvation.

I don't ever want to forget the lesson I learned from this passage. From the turtles ability to sense the seasons and to be . . .

STILL AND SIMPLE 

when it is needed.

"Stillness and simplicity can surely save us from stress and anxiety, and from a Christmas that is characterized by anything but peace on earth good will to men."

- Unearthing Wonder: A Family Guide To Advent

This Advent, I am vowing to remember the turtle, and follow in its slow and simple path. In these long, cold days of darkness, I want to pull in the warmth all around me and trust that the sun will return, that truly, the SON will return! To become so still and so dependent upon the Father, that I almost forget to breathe, and trust Him to sustain me! Yah - Breathe in, Weh - Breathe out.  Have you ever considered, that the very sound of our breathing speaks His name?

"I will wait in patience and praise you more and more!"

- Psalm 71:14


2 comments:

pam said...

I SO love this post. Everything about it! You have a good man, too!

And I'll be joining you in remembering the turtle this Advent season.

Melissa said...

This is a beautiful one page delight of the individual Sundays of Advent! Did you make it available to print out for free? If not, that's totally ok. I have my candle centerpiece ready to go at home! Peace and blessings to your house.