i don't know about you, but for me Christmas came deliciously slow this year. i'm starting to feel as though "Christmas" is becoming an entire season for me, rather than just a day. it begins with advent, moves through St. Nicholas day, dances around parties and school productions, takes a deep breath Christmas eve and then explodes the next morning. but it doesn't end there - the liturgical calendar celebrates twelve days of Christmas. twelve days to continue to ponder the mystery of the incarnation, the humility of the shepherds, the poignant gifts of wise men. i love it.
last year i started a personal tradition of painting an advent piece, which also marinades me in mystery for a while.
this year i wanted to explore the adventine (adventian? chose whichever made-up word you enjoy better) concept of waiting. waiting for clarity. for direction. for detail. for truth. i wanted to communicate the reality of how we all see dimly, through muddied waters, tired eyes, broken lenses. how we are all waiting for the focus of God's revelation.
here's what i wrote in my journal in November:
I can see how my eye has been moving to the background, to the obscured light, to bokah, refraction, blur. the delicious excitement of detailing what has no detail. the challenge. the beauty of colour, repetition, fuzzy line, blended shade. this is exciting. a new step. an intentional step. a step that makes sense to my hand, my eye, my heart and mind. a glorifying step.
so, my first semi-abstract painting.
i'm really proud of it. it makes me think of how i can look backward at my life, or forward, or even around me in the moment, and everything is so obscure. and then i ask for God's help to see - my purpose, my next step, the path behind me - and there's a tweak. a turning of the lens. lines become a little more crisp, the turmoil contained, muddied areas clarify - some beautiful godly perspective. clarity. never complete, but enough to understand a little better.
i'm considering painting a series along this line. calling it the 'not yet' series.
our new church has many traditions - one of its many endearing qualities. traditions like every child getting a little present the sunday before Christmas. and a candle-lit Christmas eve service. and the sunday after Christmas - a consolation and desolation service. consolations are moments in our lives where we see God clearly, we experience the joy of knowing and trusting Him better, we celebrate, we taste the goodness. desolations are the opposite. moments of pain and fear, moments of wandering and wondering. as a church we took time to look back over our year, at our personal moments in both categories, and then the mic was passed around for people to share their stories if they'd like. i didn't share. i was on the stage, having led worship with scott, a mic at my fingertips but i didn't trust myself to speak. i knew if i started sharing a torrent of tears would awaken.
but i can share here.
my greatest moments of desolations this year were hugs. goodbye hugs where friends shook with tears on my shoulder. hugging my despairing daughter the first few weeks of school. hugging myself as i wailed out my grief on our bottom stair.
and my greatest moments of consolation? also hugs. hugs from new friends. from perfect strangers. hugs around casserole dishes filled with food for our arriving family. an enormous group hug from our church the morning scott was commissioned. hugs from my mother-in-law and father-in-law, welcoming us back to bc. and hugs from my children, bubbling over with stories of new friendships, or sleepy hugs of contentment.
i was struck with another moment as i was thinking in church this morning. a saturday morning a couple months ago. scott was still sleeping and i snuck out of bed to have my journalling/prayer/coffee time. i opened our bedroom door quietly and slipped through. my eyes caught sight of our oak floor jutting up against the wide white baseboard my dad installed, and the warm grey wall we had painted our first day in this home. floor, baseboard, wall. and i thought "beautiful". and it struck me - i love our home. this house that made me want to weep the first time i walked through it - a continual visual assault of dirt and ugly colours and needed projects and neglect. so much work. and that morning the lens shifted. i saw my house a little clearer. i saw that it was my home. and as my childhood friend marilynne told me would happen - i love the house all the more for the sweat involved in changing it.
so, friends and strangers, may this year ahead bring us all a wee bit more clarity. may the "now" of God's comfort and compassion, His presence and unfailing love, supersede the "not yet" of our agonies and confusions. God bless you.