Take it Slow



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.


Little Things of Late

We’ve had our first snow!


And now that we’ve had this thrill, I say- Well!  That was lovely, wasn’t it?  Let’s move on.  To Spring!    But despite the first blooms of the lenten roses and snowdrops, I’m afraid we may still have an ice storm ahead.

(We’ve had one, yes.  But what about Second Winter?) 

Our first goat babies of the year have come….


Although I love to be at the births, there is something wonderful about walking in the barn and finding them waiting…. dry, bright eyed and absolutely perfect.


(It was a little humbling, I’ll admit, the first time. YOU MEAN THEY DON’T NEED ME?!)

And for fun, in closing, here’s a recent piece I wrote for the weekly prompts I share with my friend Sarah:

My daddy was a military kid. He was hauled all around the world as he grew up: Japan, Germany, California…. And interestingly, the base he was born at,  Fort Gordon in Augusta Georgia, was the last base of his dad’s career. So dad’s birth place became his resting place, for (as there was no reason to move around anymore)  he stayed right where he was.

Growing up, Daddy’s favorite “home spot” was in Esto, Florida. There was no military base there, just my grandmother’s extended family, and this is where they would go when they couldn’t travel with my grandfather. My great-grandparents were rooted deep in Esto. They had a farm complete with two mules (Ater and Gater were their names) who they came to a woeful end one day when they wondered onto the railroad tracks.  But that’s another story.

So for once, my daddy belonged to a place, because he belonged to a family that belonged there. He was one of the Sheffields, and those mules were his too.

I suppose this is why he took on the accent of North-West Florida. His years there were relatively short, but in their language, he found his own. In a hundred different words you can hear the drawl and pull and natural other-ness. But mostly in a handful of words that end in a “s” sound, for a “t” is added. For instance:

“Sarah, you’re gonna have to do something about Angus. He was on the road, not oncet, not twicet… but three times.” 

And again, in a most tender example, but one that always makes me grin:

“Oncet again, dear Lord, we ask for your mercy, oncet again.”

“Where’s your dad from?” Someone will ask. “It’s southern, I know, but there’s something else in there too.”

“He’s from everywhere,” I say. “But He picked up that “something else” in Esto, Florida and he’s held onto it ever since.”


That’s all folks!  Happy February!

the Weary World Rejoices

“Gather round, ye children, come!  Listen to the old, old story of the power of death undone, by an Infant born of Glory:  Son of God, Son of Man….”


“Rank on rank, the host of heaven stream before him on the way,
as the Light of Light, descending from the realms of endless day,
comes, the powers of hell to vanquish, as the darkness clears away.”


Long lay the world in sin and e’er pining
‘Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”


“I am doing a new thing and soon you will see
I am coming among you and my name shall be
Emmanuel, Emmanuel”


“All glory be to God on high and to the earth be peace.
Goodwill henceforth from God to man begin and never cease.”


“No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found…”


“O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.”

 “Gather Round Ye Children Come”(Andrew Peterson), “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”, “Oh Holy Night”, “I Will Find A Way” (Andy Gullahorn), “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night”, “Joy to the World”,  “O Come All Ye Faithful”

In the Falling Leaf


I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

Christina Rossetti