Room, Or No?

Shed in Winter

The year I got married, my husband’s mom told me she’d read that the Christmas season brings thirty-nine additional items to a woman’s already overflowing to-do list. At the time I thought the number seemed a wee bit overstated but with age and experience, I’ve learned that the exact number doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, it’s enough.

More than enough.

We address cards and clean houses. We go to programs and the post office. We buy and we bake.  We decorate. We deliver.

In no time, the pages of our calendars are crammed with concerts and gatherings. There’s no room for anything else. No room for one more thing. No room for Jesus.

He knows about a no room Christmas.

On the night of his arrival, Bethlehem was filled with people returning to be counted for Caesar’s census. The Inn was full, so crowded that there was no room for Mary and Joseph and their coming baby. That first Christmas was a busy one.

Still, there were those who made time.

The shepherds were settled in for a long for a night of watching their flocks, situated around their fire, doing whatever shepherds did to stay warm and pass the time. They were ready for another night of work, right up until the heavenly host arrived and changed everything.

The wise men saw the star and followed. They had to have known that to follow meant a long and arduous journey. Still, they went.

Our calendars present a convincing case that we have no room. For us there will be no heavenly host, no star to prompt us to act. It’s up to us to wrestle the list and the calendar and make room.

It’s a hard fight.

I face it every year: succumb to the busyness of the season, to all the things, and plow through my days accompanied by a flashing neon No Vacancy sign or join the shepherds and the wise men and make room.

For the shepherds it meant a trip into town. For the wise men, it was a cross-country trek. We don’t have to go anywhere.

The babe has already arrived.

Jesus came to live his sinless life and die an unjust death. He rose to give us life and then ascended into Heaven where he’ll intercede for us until he returns.

All that’s left is for us to make room, to pay attention, to remember—wherever we are–and worship.

May there be room in your life this Advent. See you in the new year.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Sharing at Thought Provoking Thursday.

Roads in Transition

IMG_1511The sun dawned in the steely sky and peeked through trees veiled by the falling snow. It had begun the night before and lingered, fine and heavy, through the day. “It’s slick,” my son told me when he returned from his mid-day Calc class. I must have looked concerned, because he amended his statement. “The roads were fine. It’s the parking lot that was bad.”

Of course the roads were in better shape than the parking lot—the DOT turns the crews loose before the first flake hits the ground. They work to keep the roads neat and tidy, safe surfaces for us to navigate between where we are and where we need to be. Their trucks and plows spread through the area with sand, salt, and blades.

The forecast called for snow in Yellowstone that same day, but there no one bothered much about the roads.

It wasn’t because of a strike. It wasn’t because of a government shutdown. It was because–with the exception of the fifty-two mile stretch of road between the North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana and the Northeast Entrance at Cooke City–Yellowstone’s roads are accessible only by snow machine during the winter.

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In spring and summer and the early months of fall, Yellowstone’s roads are just roads. They have their seasonal dangers—potholes the size of small cars, thermal mist which ices the surface on cold nights, wildlife lallygagging just around the bend—but they are roads, meant for us to drive. We belong there.

During the winter they consist of snow, groomed smooth enough by the same machines that tend to downhill ski slopes, their edges marked by tall orange stakes rather than the familiar white line. We can belong there, too, on snowmobiles or in Suburbans retrofitted with treads.

But for a few weeks in between they are roads in transition.

They’re messy. They’re dangerous. And they’re fit for neither tires nor treads.

Some of the people who live and work in Yellowstone’s interior drive them anyway—to the grocery store, to visit a friend, to their winter’s work assignment. Park employees tell tales of white-knuckled travels over slippery, snowy roads. It’s what their life requires while they wait for the snow to build up so that groomers can carve out a smooth surface for them to get from where they are to where they need to be.

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Some of ours are roads in transition.

Stretches are messy. Sections are dangerous. And sometimes our vehicle feels like no match for the way ahead.

Our kids get older and what once worked suddenly is a cumbersome, clunky way that doesn’t get the job done. Our marriages reshape themselves just as we do, and so do our friendships. Our jobs change, and sometimes even the place where our key fits the lock.

In the midst of it all, we keep going. We make our way over roads that are messy and dangerous, in vehicles that feel like no match for the terrain. We wait for the day when it will smooth into a neat and tidy surface, one that feels safe to navigate–even if only for a little while. It’s the process life requires and the way it gives for us to get from where we are to where we need to be.

And while we wait, beautiful encouragement from a Psalm of David: For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

No matter the condition of the road.

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Sharing stories at Thoughtful Thursdays and Unforced Rhythms.

 

 

 

Gifts

Fall is days from turning in its papers for the year but between the early sticking snows and arctic blast I nearly missed it, and not only its existence. I almost missed its gifts. Fall is my favorite season, but it just didn’t look like its typical self this year.

Neither did its gifts. Normally my list would include the stretch of glorious, crisp, sun warmed days of October. Not this year. The few we had moved by so fast I barely noticed.

That has been the nature and challenge of this fall—moving fast. Our kids are getting older; their lives are busier and so are ours. The season’s gifts have been lifelines that God has graced my ordinary days with and I am grateful for each one.

  1. The occasional game: Monopoly. Scrabble. Killer Uno. Short rest stops on the highway of life.
  2. Gratitude. Our oldest two express their thanks for our time and help. Their words encourage me to keep moving forward. I could learn from them.
  3. Eye contact. Face to face conversation about the stuff of life.
  4. The crock pot and take-out pizza—specifically this recipe for Crock Pot Mac & Cheese. My kids love it.
  5. Leaves floating on the surface of the pond.
  6. The scent of wood burning in the stove.

Have you faced new challenges this fall? What lifelines have been gracing your ordinary days?

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

Linking Gifts with the writers at Unforced Rhythms.

Anchor

Roots on the Red Rock Point Trail Yellowstone National Park

Root System on the Red Rock Point Trail
Yellowstone National Park

Once in a while we encounter the remains of a colossal tree on the trail. Sometimes we find an immense trunk laying on the ground rather than stretched to the sky. Usually, though, it’s a remnant of a root system tipped into the air that gets our attention.

We always stop when we see a tangled mass that once anchored a tree.

They’re beautiful, but not in the traditional way.

They’re gnarled and convoluted, but they’re strong.

They’re huge so they can hold a tree fast in the face of intense mountain weather .

They make me consider the condition of my own roots.

So here’s the question for me and for you today: What anchors you against the intense weather of life? Is it holding?

Linking Anchor at Kelli and Lyli’s.

Before It Blows Away

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The screen door crashed and muted footfalls raced across the carpet. “Come outside and look at the sky before it blows away!” called my littlest girl.

“Before what blows away?”

“The sky, it’s beautiful! But the clouds are moving really fast. I’m afraid you’ll miss it if you don’t come now, before the clouds blow away.”

I sighed.  What I really wanted to do was finish the dishes, but I dried my hands and followed my husband out the front door and up the driveway where we took our place behind our daughter. She gazed up at an impressionist’s sky, magenta bordered by blue and orange, molten sun captured and smudged with white clouds that swirled over our heads.

She was right; the sky was beautiful. But it was nothing compared with the little girl.

Beauty reveals itself to her everywhere and she’s got this breathy little gasp that lets us know when she’s spotted it. She likes my outfit? Delighted gasp. She sees a picture of an artfully set table? Delighted gasp. She walks out onto snowy path? Delighted gasp.

She sees. I could learn from that girl.

What I saw that night was not the sky. I saw the girl in front of it and I watched the wispy remains of her childhood blowing past as quickly as the clouds above our heads. And like the clouds, it’s moving on to make room for something new, something equally lovely.

Lovely, but different. I don’t want to miss what childhood remains while it’s here.

Even if it means leaving the dishes.

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Sharing stories this week with the writers at Kelli’s Unforced Rhythms.

The Road Ahead: Giving Thanks

Happy November!
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November’s road leads to Thanksgiving’s table, a bounty of traditional foods and sometimes–when we remember to fit it in–a moment of reflection on all that we have to be grateful for. As we walk our road this month, may each step we take bring us closer to thanksgiving as a way of life, a moment by moment habit of the heart rather than a yearly ritual, over as quickly as the big game. And, in our thanksgiving, may we find joy.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18