A Strange Advent

Life feels so strange just now:
delicate and ponderous,
uncertain and pre-determined,
incomplete, uncomfortable, gaping open,
like a sweater that no longer fits.

She asks the same questions,
over and over and over again.
She worries over the cost,
she wonders what will become of her,
she sobs at her helplessness.

Everything is shifting,
the child becomes the parent,
the parent, a child.
Groping in the dark, she becomes
the fulfillment of the Carpenter’s
long-ago warning:
“…when you were younger
you dressed yourself 
and went where you wanted,
but when you are old
you will stretch out your hands
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where 
you do not want to go.” 

And I am the one in the lead.

I do not like it very much.
No, I do not like it at all.

Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.

The heavily pregnant Mary has been wandering the curving road to the House of Bread, Bethlehem. And she is almost there. We have been moving the candle each night that we’ve been home, moving it along the wooden spiral created by Caleb Voskamp at the tender age of 15. And we have been reading from Katharine Johnson’s lovely Jesse tree devotional, using icons her 14-year-old daughter painted. And weaving in and around these lovely pieces of young art has been the sad story of my aged mother’s move to assisted living, a move made necessary by blindness and memory loss.

And this is the cycle of life, isn’t it? We all grow old, all of us who were once young. We grow old. And we die. Some of us die relatively quickly; some of us take a long time. But each journey is fraught with uncertainty, with fear, with loss and with difficult decisions. 

I think maybe the story we tell during each Advent season can bless us on this journey of aging. If we let it. The mother of Jesus was young, very young. And her world was turned upside down by events she neither planned nor expected. Scripture tells us that she said ‘yes’ to the unexpectedness of it all, that she said, “Let it be.” “Let it be to me according to your word.”

And Joseph did the same. He folded Mary in on the strength of a dream, he took on her shame, he took on her boy. He, too, said, “Let it be.” 

And the two of them together, they took that curving road to the House of Bread. They found their way to an inhospitable and unwanted ‘home’ for the night. They spilled their tears and their blood on the ground of that dark cave so that Jesus, Emmanuel, might be birthed into our world. Together, they said, “Let it be.”

And they did it without knowing what they were doing, as all of us who take on the task of parenting do. We do not see into the future, we cannot know the pain, or the joy, that will come with the years.

But we can say, and we can live, this truth: “Let it be.” 

We can take it all, the love and the laughter, the anger and the tears; the hopes and dreams and the harsh realities and stern wake-up calls; the energy of youth and the exhaustion of old age; the promise of life and the sober questions about death – we can take it all firmly in hand, receiving each piece as gift, and we can say: “LET IT BE.” 

According to your word. According to your word.

I write tonight with a mixture of both sadness and of gratitude. I am grateful for the family I was born into, for my father’s passion for music and learning and family; for my mother’s graciousness, hospitality, great good humor and sharp mind; for my brother Tom’s keen wit, kindness, loyalty and tenderness; for my brother Ken’s sweetness despite a lifetime of heartache. My father has been gone for almost seven years now; my brother Ken for two. My mom is moving closer to the end of life (aren’t we all?) and Tom and I are each dealing with a plateful of challenges. As we left the mortuary after saying good-bye to Ken, Tom put his arm around my mother and me and said, “We’re down to just three now, aren’t we?” Yes, we are. And who knows when we will be just two. I pray daily for the grace to stand with Mary and Joseph, for the strength to remain steadfastly hopeful and thankful, even in the midst of loss and sorrow. Some days it’s a struggle. Some days it’s as easy as breathing. All days, I am grateful to God for each breath I am granted. And this day, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year. 

Adding this to the list at several places this week. Please check them all out and read a few here and there. Always richness to be found in these places:

 tuesdays unwrapped at cats


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  1. This was the first thing I read this morning, and I was undone. “She sobs at her helplessness.” I can barely read those words, but you have been called to walk with her in the sobbing.

    You are so right. The Advent story and the gospel are all on display in this strange, painful season of yours. We could all sob in our helplessness. None of us knows where God is calling us. We only know that He is good and He is leading us home. I read this from Hebrews last week, and it struck me that it sounds an awful lot like the parenting journey you described,

    “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.”

    It’s all the same story, over and over again, isn’t it? May you know the nearness of the God who put on flesh this Christmas, Diana. Blessings to you.

  2. Oh, Diana, I read your post with a catch in my throat. Your mother and my mother are going through similar things, and of course that means you and I are going through similar emotions and ponderings and yes, even a form of grieving. My heart goes out to you. For both you and me, for our mothers: “Let it be!” Indeed!

    Nancy’s comment about Abraham, going–even though he did not know where he was going–has been one of my favorites for several decades. I marvel at it each time I read it, so my thanks goes to Nancy for the reminder.

    God bless you richly, Diana, and Nancy too.


  3. oh..so sorry for the sorrow…a slow grieving is sometimes more painful than the sudden…
    I pray for Grace and Peace to be your companions as you journey on this most difficult path…
    Blessings to you~

  4. completely twisted and wrung out by your words.. and joy filled and thrilled beyond measure to be reading them. You are paving a path for me as I see my parents age and live 900 miles away…but still have the role of taking over to parent them…

    And the Voskamp advent wreath, so on my wish list!

  5. completely twisted and wrung out by your words.. and joy filled and thrilled beyond measure to be reading them. You are paving a path for me as I see my parents age and live 900 miles away…but still have the role of taking over to parent them…

    And the Voskamp advent wreath, so on my wish list!

  6. This is powerful, Diana. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Lovely, and that photo? Just beautiful!

  8. I remember my grandma,as her memory began to go, saying “I need a keeper!” with a chuckle.

    But if I looked at her as she spoke, I saw panic in her eyes.

    Much love to you, Diana, as you walk this walk.

  9. It is, indeed, a strange advent. Sitting at my mother-in-law’s bedside for days waiting, I wondered at that very thing. The advent waiting. What were we waiting for? Not for her to recover, but for death to do its work. And then I would contrast that with the waiting of advent. The waiting for relief. The waiting in hope of the promise.

    And I suppose, all in all, that’s what we were waiting for with her too. For her to receive her promised relief.

    It has certainly colored my understanding of this kind of waiting that it seems we (or at least I do) struggle to place ourselves in at this time of year, we who wait for nothing. We don’t wait. We make happen. When faced with that which we truly cannot control, however, we wait.

    I’m rambling. I apologize. I’ve not processed much of this aloud yet… Know that I appreciate your words here. And I’ve prayed for you and yours as you walk the present road with your mom. Might you sense his peace in its most true way this season.

  10. I took in each line of your poem as it came – so poignant and so powerful. I can feel such a sense of peace and pain all at the same time as you walk through this season of life. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord – Hosanna in the highest. Hosanna in the highest. ~Praying for you as you walk in the name of the Lord to honor all that is in front of you now.

  11. Oh friends,thanks so much for stopping by and offering such kind words of encouragement this Advent morning.

    Nancy – love that verse and the story that it references. None of us knows where we are going, it is so true. Only that when we get there, God will be there, too.

    Linda T – I will pray for you as I pray for myself – that we will find reservoirs of patience and love we didn’t know were there!

    Ells, M/M mom, Ann & Cheryl – thanks for coming by today. Always glad to see you!

    Sheila – panic – that’s exactly it. I feel so, so sad for her fear. I would be frightened too, if I were losing myself. My mother-in-law has a true dementia and she never seemed to realize what was happening to here. My mom’s is a different kind – a short term memory that is like a sieve and an inability to distinguish reality from things she’s dreamed or over thought – and she knows her brain isn’t working right, so she is very frightened about it all. Hard.

    Lyla – I have been praying for you, friend, am sorry for your loss. You have given no clue as to whether this dying was expected, or sudden, so I don’t know if you’ve had the ‘gift’ of time to grieve while waiting. And I’m not at all sure it’s a gift to tell you the truth! And please NEVER apologize for what you might think is rambling – I always enjoy tracing your thoughts as I read. They’re good thoughts and so right on. We DON’T do waiting well, do we? But sometimes we’re forced to learn. Blessings to you all as you plan a memorial in the midst of Christmas!

  12. Oh Diana, I am so very grateful for this post tonight. Walking with you in this different Advent, and exclaiming a resounding yes, Let It Be, as You will.

    Thank you for that. You are in my prayers, dearest friend. Love you.

  13. The sobs.

    This makes my heart ache and my throat tighten. And I remember how my sister and I explained my mom’s condition to her several times. That she would not leave the hospice home. She said she had accepted that, but I sometimes I saw the tear that trickled. And more and more, private person that she was, she had to “let it be” as she lost more and more independence over a few short weeks. And all the second guessing then–and still. The wondering. And yet, we have to let it be.

    So many of us walking this dark journey in some form, now together, to hold each other together.

    Love to you, my dear friend.

    Love to you, my friend.

  14. This is very lovely, and I love your picture. Today I am hosting a Christmas Photo Scavenger Hunt, and I wondered if you’d like to include this post for the picture prompt advent calendar. I’d love to see you there! Kim

  15. Diana, your words take me back to when my mother was dying. She was diagnosed with a fast-moving form of cancer and was gone within a month of diagnosis. My father, on the other hand, had Alzheimer’s. I don’t know which is worse: losing someone quickly when the mind is clear and can grasp what is to come; or waiting with someone through a slow and confusing deterioration. Either way, the choice is not ours. We lay our own sorrow at His feet and walk into our tomorrows with Him.

    My prayers are with you.

  16. Those words, so hard, and yet, so freeing: Let it be. And to know that in the saying, He honors our hearts — our grief, our joy, our questions, our trust.

    Praying that you would be filled, completely consumed by the quiet of His Holy Spirit.

  17. I found healing tears here today. My dad died last fall and my sister this past spring. My mom grows more frail, my brother is three states away. The future is so murky to me… but He is already there.
    Thank you.

  18. def a poignant post for me…just this week my gramma of 90 fell and broke her leg…since the surgery she has been quite addled…not sure where she is or what is going on…it is hard to see…i hope that you have a very merry christmas…

  19. so painfully poignant beautiful diana… i echo nancy… may you know Christ so very near today.

  20. Yes, we’re all on the road to dying — a strange “waiting” for our other, more permanent home. In the meantime, we are meant to be here, and for me, figuring out what it means to do His will. In my case, that involves a lot of stumbling and learning … and re-learning. Grateful for grace …

    Praying that you sense God’s peace and provision during the hard days, when the wait seems long and painful. Love to you and yours …