I was scolded once by a professor for ending a presentation with the four honest words, “That’s all I have.” And I think this speaks something to my silence here over the past (eep) month or so. I’m imagining myself trailing you down the hallway repeating, “Well, what was I supposed to say?”
It’s not that I have nothing to say – it’s that I’m thinking too much to say it. Five drafts are sitting half done on my hard drive and there’s a long list of blog topics lurking somewhere on my cell phone – things I’ll say once I find the words.
Every piece I’ve tried to produce in the past month ends unresolved, with a giant question mark. If I publish them as is, you and I both will be asking, “Wait – was that the end?” and everyone will be confused and I’ll have to throw up my hands and squeak out – again! – the words, “That’s all I have,” or, as an old friend of mine put it, “All I know is . . .” and he stared off into the distance and never finished.
My life is full of good things.
Josh is nearly done with his first semester of grad school (and shall henceforth be known on this blog as the barefoot professor). Our nomadic life has been good to us, but we’re pleased to announce that house things are moving along again, after a too-long break. I’m finding what could be the first clear direction I’ve grasped after a long spell of beating my head against a wall in the name of trying to make ends meet. Some of my friends are glimpsing the light after long dark spells and I’m exhaling the breath I didn’t know I was holding for them. And in the places where it’s still dark the hope is becoming a little clearer.
And it’s Christmas.
I confess I harbor a freakish obsession with Christmas that would put some four year olds to shame. I’m not really sure what’s better than the combination of family and blazing fireplaces and pancakes. This year, though, I especially appreciate the wise words of people like Hӓnnah and Sarah, who share of the beauty and longing of Advent in a way that explains the tension we feel the rest of the year. After so much nomadic middle-dwelling – living between what I see as points A and B, those places where things kind of made sense – it calms a deep and scared part of me when other people echo the same feelings.
Christian people can get super zealous about the holidays. We eschew stories of reindeer and blow out the infant Jesus’ birthday candles and refuse to call the season The Holidays and plaster phrases like BELIEVE everywhere there’s an inch of our homes not drowning in tinsel. Sometimes the militant cries take me by surprise, even though I know this story and I’m on board with de-commercializing Christmas. I would just like take in the beauty of Christmas without getting all French revolution-y.
I want to listen to Christmas songs in a minor key and remember how the Almighty was born into a room for animals and how the witnesses were the marginalized and ignored. I want to savor the story again in its entirety – how the baby swaddled in tinsel in your living room turned out to be the slaughtered lamb and the story mesmerized everyone from the crazy naked OT prophets to the toddler in your home.
Friends of ours have a Christmastime doormat that reads: THIS HOUSE BELIEVES. When I saw it I asked Josh, “In what? Santa?” He gave a characteristic sigh that only befits those moments when he senses my sarcasm bubbling under the surface and I deduced that actually it meant sweet baby Jesus. The words looked so certain in all caps and bright colors, and I thought that if my home had a doormat it would say something like,
this house doesn’t have a clue.
But, I mean, actually we do believe. And that’s important. We just don’t know anything about anything else.
Part of the beauty of Advent is that it reminds us that all the wandering and waiting is okay.
These sure haven’t been my finest moments. It hasn’t even been an instance that I can point to and say, “I was weak and he was strong, obviously, because I was able to accomplish so much,” because I haven’t. I’m a bit lost, and to be honest my mobile Bible app keeps sending me passive aggressive e-mails about the importance of not neglecting all those reading plans I downloaded. I keep pulling out little verses that tell me the truth – the things I’m absolutely sure about, no matter how I feel and no matter how broken I am. And you know what? Sometimes that’s all I have.