Staring at my schedule book on December 1st, I wrote: Take it Slow in big script at the top, right above the bullet hole straight through every Monday (this accident happened early in the year and proved prophetic: Your schedule is shot.)
I want to take these advent days gently. I want to feel them all, as Mary felt her belly swell and the life kick, and I want to ponder it all in my heart, just as she did.
But there are fifty meat chickens to be processed and put in the freezer, beeswax candles to dip, sugar cane to be pressed and boiled down, two leaks in the house and one in the barn roof, stalls to be cleaned, goats to milk, three meals a day with expected (and unexpected) guests, muddy tracks across the floor, cows escaping, firewood to haul, fireplaces to clean, all sorts of Christmas to-dos (and oh, by the way, did you see the “Rush! Live root stock, plant immediately!” package at the door?).
So how am I supposed to take it slow, Lord?
I will provide the grace.
He will provide the grace, like he did for Mary, every jarring bump along the way to the ill-timed census.
It is not about my circumstances. I know too well how unclean stables can be. I have held a woman gripped in birth pains. I can only imagine what having a death warrant from a king would be like.
No, it is about a heart-tender with the capacity to treasure and ponder all things sent.
Sometimes it’s fifty dead chickens on a cold rainy day and I’m in the gutting section and my nose is dripping. Sometimes it’s watching your grandmother unwrap every ornament slowly and gently and talk about each one. Sometimes it’s climbing on the roof to look at the leak, trying hard not to let it show that something essential in your back just stretched beyond its ability. Sometimes it’s sitting at a beloved concert, all beautiful and true, and realizing that the goosebumps aren’t going away and your whole body has gone numb in the glory of the story, the true tall tale as old as time and yet new every year, every morning.
Things will not be ideal. Life and work and needs will go on in December like always. Taking it slow is not the same as taking it easy.
This proper stillness comes in the inner sanctum. It ought to be there in the walled garden, where the foxes can’t enter to ravage, nor strangers disturb, that shelters from the wind.
When I look outside it seems like creation is waiting at ease on death, but the wonder of Christianity is in the cry of the baby, unmistakable and poignant in the dark night on the streets of David’s town. When Mary received the troubling visit and her schedule was undone with the angelic message, despite the myriad distractions and daily chores that surely continued, she sang. What’s more, she made the song she sang, from the still quiet place of her poet’s heart.
She took it slow.
And today, by the grace of her Baby Boy, so will I.