Word of the Week

[If you missed Dayna's first post on "Waiting with Hope" check it out here]

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

Luke 1:41- 45

The story of God’s redemption is full of babies - longed for babies, unexpected babies, babies born to women long past the age of fertility, babies that no one could ever have predicted. These babies are almost always a source of delight and joy. Their births are a sign to their parents and their community of God’s presence among them, making something out of nothing. Over and over again God creates ex nihilo – out of nothing – in the wombs of Israel’s women.

And yet, the lives of these babies are not charmed – or even protected – in the ways we would hope or expect. John the Baptist, who leapt in Elizabeth’s womb in response to Mary’s greeting, grew up to be a prophet who was imprisoned and then beheaded by Herod. Jesus’ birth forced Mary and Joseph to become refugees in Egypt. His life ended with torture and execution, while his mother looked on helplessly. Many of the boys born at the same time as these cousins were slaughtered by Herod before their second birthdays.

It’s a story filled with joy, but also a story of some of the deepest pain imaginable, a story almost too horrible in places to tell.  It’s a story of desperate parents, of shattering grief, of empty arms. Each of those lives was a gift, a delight, a blessing, a sign of God’s miraculous power to breathe life into human flesh over and over again. And yet, each child was radically vulnerable to the life-crushing powers of suffering and death.

Soon after my husband and I learned that the baby we were expecting had a fatal birth defect (See Dec 6 Post), I discovered a website devoted to telling the stories of families who had welcomed a child with a poor prenatal diagnosis (BeNotAfraid.net). The diagnoses and stories of these families were all different – some children fared far better than expected, while others died before or shortly after birth. Some have thrived and flourished, while others live with disabilities that cause them pain or that will eventually take their lives. But the thread that ran through all the stories was the joy these parents found in their children’s lives. Despite the pain of loving a child with a severe disability, every parent was deeply grateful for the gift of their child’s life.

It seemed very strange to find joy in the life of a child who was not yet born and already dying. How could the life of a dying child be a sign of God’s presence and blessing? How could a child whose body was so profoundly disfigured and disabled be a gift from God? How could we find joy in welcoming a child who would never gain consciousness?

Over the remaining months of my pregnancy with Ethan, I learned this: in order to receive the joy of Ethan’s life, of being his parents, we had to open ourselves to the grief of lamenting his loss. The deeper the joy we took in his life, the deeper the pain of losing him. The more we embraced the hard work of grieving his coming loss, the more we were able to receive the gifts of being his parents and taking joy in his life.

Knowing that his life would be short caused us to slow down and pay attention in ways that we might otherwise never have done. My husband and I spent time each day listening to our son’s heartbeat on a fetal Doppler. We read to him and sang to him and told him the story of our love for him. Even as I grieved, I paused to enjoy my son’s kicks and thumps inside my womb.

What I learned from welcoming Ethan into my life is this: joy is different from happiness.  Joy can see and celebrate what is a gift from God in the midst of what is almost unbearable. Joy doesn’t deny or overlook what is painful and grief-filled, but it refuses to let the pain cancel out what is good and beautiful. Joy insists that God is present even in the midst of darkness and death.

Let us pray:

Come Lord Jesus.  Give us the strength to welcome your life-giving presence in the midst of darkness and grief. Amen.

olsongettyDayna is a member of Durham Mennonite Church (Mennonite Church USA) and part of the Rutba House new monastic community. She and her husband Eric live in the Walltown neighborhood of Durham, NC and are parents of one living son, Noah.  Their firstborn son, Ethan, was born and died in 2009. Dayna is hoping this Advent for a heart open to God’s longings for the most vulnerable among us.

I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 2 John 1:12

Waiting for our friend to come home from prison and start a new life with us is not unlike waiting for a new family member to come home from the hospital.

Neaners, José Israel Garcia, former leader of a Mexican gang, will step out of the automated gates of a Washington State "correctional complex" in nine months (at the time of this writing). But we've been preparing our lives and home to receive him for nearly five years now.

"I'm comin' home, babyboy," he says to me through the overpriced collect call from the sterile prison yard. "I can't believe it."

He's said this for the last two years. I've tried to remind him we have plenty of time, not to get too anxious. Everything will be ready for him, I assure, when the time comes.

"You don't understand," Neaners tells me, and his voice gets serious. "Time's different for us in here. For you, maybe a year is a long time. For us, who've been confined for years and years, that's right around the corner."

We like to think time is a measurable, objective thing. We track it with the hands of clocks and control it with the small cells of calendars.

But waiting shows us how separate we really are from each other, the ones who prepare to receive from the one who aches to be received.

I saw this play out several years ago, when I took Neaners' daughter to visit her daddy in prison for the first time. They'd never met before. Adelita, age five, stepped into a solitary confinement visiting booth with me and saw her father's tattooed face through the bullet-proof glass.

She took to him right away. She knelt on the chair I pulled up beside me and held the heavy black receiver out in front of her mouth like a microphone, leaning her forehead nearly to the glass as she sang her daddy songs when she ran out of things to say.

These were some of the sweetest hours, the most joyful, in our many years of waiting—which are, frankly, getting harder.

That first afternoon, I would take the receiver from her eventually. I’d talk with Neaners for maybe fifteen minutes. And Adelita sat and hummed, played with the ties in her pigtails.

Then: “Oh, I want to tell you something!” she’d suddenly interrupt.

“What’s that, Mamas?” Neaners turned from me and smiled at his daughter, who now crawled back up and took the receiver. She knelt up on the small counter space and put her other hand to the glass:

“I love you, Daddy!"

This was her first afternoon near him. And she adored him. She was more playful, alive, trusting, loving, in this solitary confinement booth than I’d ever seen her at her aunt’s house where I’d pick her up and visit her, TV drone and dogs barking in the background. She was at home in her father’s presence.

Neaners dropped his face into his elbow, laughing and overwhelmed by how his daughter so fully received him. His shoulders shook.

“When are you coming home, Daddy?” Adelita asked.

Neaners’ smile didn’t drop, but we had shifted key.

“Um . . . three years, baby”

“Goooood! In three days, you can come to my kindergarten open house!”

I saw Neaners’ eyes pool. She did not fully grasp the time between them, the waiting that was wider than the glass. The open house, even, wasn’t for two more weeks.

So Neaners took the opportunity to do what fathers do, and started to teach his daughter to count, together. “Uno . . . dos . . . tres . . .” His long, tattooed fingers landed one at a time on his side of the glass, waiting each time for her tiny fingers to press against his, counting with him, in rhythm. “You’ll be in first grade . . . then second grade . . . then third grade . . . and then I’ll be home.”

Thinking about Advent, waiting for God, I see Neaners and his daughter counting time together, fingers aligned on opposite sides of what divides their worlds. For me, it is an image of joy within difficulty, presence amidst absence, a taste of the Here while sitting in a bleak space of Not Yet.

It might be like a parent finding the fingers of the infant against the stretched skin of the mother’s belly. The pressing back and forth.

Waiting will feel different on both sides. We might not really understand the time between us and the one who comes. But we can sing through the thin divide, maybe learn a shared language, a rhythm.

Let us pray:

God, help us to wait together this day with all our neighbors. Bring us the joy of sweet community as we anticipate the joy of your birth Jesus. Amen.

ChrisHokeChris Hoke is a lay pastor among inmates and gang members at Tierra Nueva, an ecumenical ministry in Northwest Washington State's Skagit Valley. He is working on a book about this work in largely hidden places, WANTED, due out on HarperOne in 2015. This Advent, Chris is hoping that the work of "re-entry" (welcoming prisoners back into society) would be a growing theme for the Church in the Advent seasons to come.

[If you missed Beth's post on a "Love That Groans" check it out here.]

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;

And the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,

And all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55: 12

But the angel of the LORD said to them, ‘Do not be afraid;

I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Luke 2:10

Though coming from different points in the Biblical story, both of these passages have a common theme -- joy will come.  For the people of Israel in captivity, joy would come at some point.  For the shepherds on that hillside that night stunned by a “Heavenly Host,” great joy would come to all people. For the disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem after Jesus had ascended, praying and very likely living in fear and obeying Jesus’ command to not leave Jerusalem but to “wait for the gift my Father promised,” joy was to come later.   The operative word for me in all of these passages is “will”.  Joy will come!

But what about joy in the midst of the pain of waiting? Waiting doesn’t seem to solicit an inner attitude of joy, at least not naturally, especially during those difficult seasons of our lives, including the season of waiting for children.

It is so easy to become obsessed by what we want and for it to dominate most of our brain power.  Easily, we “tune out” the rest of the world and “tune in” only to ourselves.  Our obsession with what we want can turn into a road toward despair, and joy becomes illusive.

Joy was illusive for my daughter when she and her husband were trying to have children and nothing was working.  She wanted a clear-cut answer from God on what direction to take, and even found herself saying to the Lord, “If I’m not meant to have kids at all, please take this desire away from me.”  She didn’t know how to let go of her desire because of its strength within her.  She found moments of joy in the classroom where she taught elementary children but was very troubled with God’s apparent silence in what they should do.

I have a beautiful calligraphic design on a plague that hangs in my living room.  At first site, it looks like a pretty design, but with a lingering look the design reveals the word-“JOY”.  Sometimes we have to look for joy in our most vulnerable moments.  It is an intentional choice, a choice that says nothing has the right to steal my joy, and that my want for something better can actually rob me of what is right there in front of my face that will bring me that illusive joy for which I am looking.  Psalm 34:7 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  We forget the first part of that verse -- to delight in the Lord and concentrate on what God will give to us, and in doing so, we forget what is most important -- to find joy in the LORD.

Finally, my daughter and son-in-law reached a point where they said, “Let’s just try this idea of IVF,” not knowing whether it was right or wrong. The decision brought relief.  A form of joy came in making the decision and trusting that, right or wrong, God would be reveled in the process.  In essence, joy came when trust came, and trust involves a letting go and trusting that God will reveal Jesus to us.  There is great joy in pursuing God with no other agenda other than to know Jesus.

Jesus had so much confidence in the Father’s love for Him that Hebrews 12: 2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”   It’s the ONLY way I know to have joy in the midst of waiting -- to fix our eyes where they belong, to trust and delight in Jesus, to remain in Jesus’ love, and to not miss what He has for us in that day.  Joy is Jesus’ gift to us, and it is His command to learn contentment in any and every situation.

Let us pray:

I have to admit, LORD, I have to learn contentment in any and every situation, especially when I do not know which way to turn and there is only confusion.  I want my desire for You to be stronger than my desire for what I want.  So here and now, help me to surrender to You, and to desire You before all other things.  Your Son surrendered Himself to Your will and Your way; help me to do the same.

BethDotsonBeth Dotson resides with her husband Danny of 42 years in Signal Mountain, TN.  She is Presbyterian and is presently working in a ministry that serves HIV clients. She loves her family dearly, has five grandchildren, and plays in the outdoors in all kinds of capacities with her husband and their black lab, Zeke. Her desire for her advent is that we would wake up to its wonder and how that wonder translates into the miracle of the mundane in our lives. 

[If you missed Elizabeth's post on "Love That Groans" check it out]

Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10

For a woman expecting but not yet expecting a baby, Advent can be a miserable time.

While songs of “peace on earth, goodwill to men” and “joy the world, the Lord has come!” are being blasted on the radio, this time for the wait-ers among us can often feel more like Holy Week than it does Advent.

But it is the holiday season, and most of us want to be happy. We want to be able to put whatever is bothering us aside and rejoice as the scripture exhorts us too. We want joy—even as much as our life circumstances aren’t naturally joyful.

I would love to offer that joy is a formula that can be followed as many preachers offer: Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. I’d love to suggest that joy is an emotion of the will that we can just pray harder to make happen. Or, if we force ourselves to sing one more Christmas carol or bake one more sheet of cookies, the joy of the Christmas spirit will find us.

Maybe you’re better at joy than I, but it has been my experience that seeking joy in the midst of waiting for children does not come through formulas and cookies. Throughout my journey to become a mother, I’ve waited through some of the darkest days of my life.

I’ve had to cry until I’ve run out of tears.

I’ve had to sit among the rocks and dirt in my backyard.

I’ve had to pull myself out of bed, brush my teeth and go to work without clean socks.

And this is all I’ve done and then repeated. I needed to attend to my own grief. There was just no other way to get through the day.

And slowly my spirit began to move just a little. It moved toward hope—that the next day would be brighter than the one before. It moved toward love—that someone needed me to notice their pain so getting out of bed was, in fact, a really great idea. And finally it moved toward joy—that though sorrow lasts for the night, in the morning joy comes.

Light came forth from the darkness. And this light was called joy.

And every time it happened—joy happened— it has surprised me. Every time over these past five years when I’ve found a smile on my face (when I had every reason to keep crying), when I’ve found a desire to make dinner (not just have take-out for the 10th time), and when I’ve called my doctor and said “Let’s try again” (when I could have easily given up), joy has become one of waiting’s greatest gifts.

Joy, I believe, is completely nonsensical.

How could a grieving mother-to-be like me smile on a week when her doctor gives her some worst-case scenario news?

How could a grieving mother-to-be like me laugh when a toddler dances around the church parlor, a little one the same age as a child who could have been my own?

How could a grieving mother-to-be like me delight in a childless season of life, even when what she wants more than anything is to mother one particular child?

I’ve done these very things, and it’s joy, I tell you. Pure joy.

Joy, as we discover it in our waiting seasons reminds us of this: we can be happy even in imperfection. We don’t need a “due date” for the work of our callings to be in motion. Jesus brings us true joy. The kingdom of God may not be in its day of fulfillment in our lives, but joy is still ours for the taking as we wait.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus, today we wait on joy. We wait for its movement to come into our lives to fill up the loneliness, the heartache and the disappointments that loom around us and in us. We wait today for your coming. Amen.

ElizabethHaganElizabeth Hagan is an ordained minister in the Baptist tradition, a freelance writer and a social media consultant who divides her time between Arlington, VA and Oklahoma City, OK with her husband Kevin. She blogs regularly at “Preacher on the Plaza” (this site). This Advent Elizabeth is hoping for the gift of being present in the moment.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

I have personally experienced Advent waiting and Advent rejoicing in a direct and obvious way. My first pregnancy occurred my last year of seminary, as I awaited a call, graduation and the birth of a healthy, wanted baby in February. My second pregnancy also extended through the Advent season, though it ended earlier, December 27, also with a healthy baby. My third time around, the baby came in late November, right on time. Advent that year involved less literal and spiritual waiting in favor of more mundane concerns---waiting for the baby to learn to breastfeed, waiting for him to sleep longer than three hours at a time.

It would be easy to write about the joy of those three events, and I do not minimize their beauty in the slightest. But I've seen too much, witnessed too much, in ten years of ministry, to leave it there.

I have been knocked over by the pain of caring for people whose IVF has failed.


I have seen the shell-shocked look of parents, still reeling from a miscarriage, trying to keep their heads down and survive The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

And I have walked with a family in the church I serve who lost not one, but two sons to the same devastating illness. Both boys had received bone marrow transplants at a hospital in Minnesota to try to halt the disease's progression. Neither boy lived to see his 9th birthday.

It seems strange to talk about their stories in a devotional about joy. But joy is a strange visitor.

Yes, sometimes she bursts into the house unbidden. She charms everyone at the party, kicking up her heels, leaving a trail of flushed faces and smiles in her wake. You couldn't evict her if you tried, assuming you'd want to, and who would want to? She is the largest force in the universe.

Other times, joy passes through as quick as a flash---a scent of home, a snort of laughter, a shimmer of the transcendent. By the time you notice her, almost lock eyes with her, she's gone again, and the worry and waiting are back.

The family's story is theirs to tell, but as one who walked alongside them, the joy I saw was the second kind. It was a flash of dove wing, inexplicable and brief, amid the wringing of hands and wordless prayers. There was the day post-transplant when the marrow count started to grow, the visit from members of the Minnesota Vikings NFL team, a conversation about "normal things" during an afternoon off from the hospital.

I've always been struck, and mystified, by the double meaning in Paul's words. Apparently the Greek word for "rejoice" is the same as "farewell." I've never quite known what to do with that… except that maybe there's a bit of letting go at work in our pursuit of joy. This family has a quote on their wall that's attributed to Joseph Campbell: “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” We cannot kidnap joy and hold her against her will. But we can look for her, and live in a posture of expectant trust that she will show up.

As I write this, the family has completed the paperwork and home study to adopt a boy from the Ukraine. And so our congregation waits with them again. But it is a feisty kind of waiting, a vigilant and hopeful waiting. Joy will burst in and stay a spell. Or she will shine momentarily and be gone, only to return at another moment. But she will come. We are certain of this.

Let us pray:

God of Joy, give me an expectant and ready heart to receive you, however and whenever you arrive. Amen.

MaryAnnDanaThe Rev. MaryAnn McKibben Dana is a mother of three, the pastor of Idylwood Presbyterian Church in Falls Church, VA, and the author of Sabbath in the Suburbs: A Family's Experiment with Holy Time through Chalice Press. She is a frequent speaker and conference leader and is co-chair of NEXT Church, a movement that seeks to call forth and nurture vibrant and creative ministry in the PC(USA). This Advent is an active one, as she is hoping for her second book to come to birth, as well as her first marathon in January.

[If you missed Joe's previous two posts on "Waiting with Hope" and "Love That Groans" check them out!]

 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:17-19

 Hospitals are inherently disorienting places, even though the people who work in them try hard to offer “hospitality.” My wife, Sarah, and our unborn son spent five days in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia after fetal surgery to address my son’s spina bifida birth defect (see December 8th post). For a few minutes, our baby was exposed to the world then put back into the uterus for what we hoped would be another three months. I can only imagine that it was disorienting for him. It was definitely disorienting for Sarah to be so completely vulnerable. We had to trust a lot of extremely qualified and very nice strangers. We were totally out of our element.

Our medical team insisted we stay in the area for at least a few weeks for monitoring before traveling back to North Carolina. After leaving the hospital, we had planned to stay in the local Ronald McDonald House (www.rmhc.org), but there was no room in the inn. Our backup plan was not a barn out back, thankfully, but another nonprofit, “Hosts for Hospitals.” (www.hostsforhospitals.org) This organization finds hosts in the Philly area for people who have to travel there for medical treatment. Our hosts, Steven and Ellyn, were in their sixties, empty nesters with a lovely spare room in their suburban home. They were devout Jews and fascinated to be hosting Sarah and her Episcopal priest husband. Their trust was amazing, as we only spoke to them twice by phone before showing up on their doorstep. We planned to stay maybe a few nights until Ronald McDonald House had room.

A few nights became three weeks. Steven and Ellyn encouraged us to stay, and Ronald McDonald stayed full. Although HfH had told us to be responsible for our own food, Ellyn insisted on cooking. She said it was because they kept kosher and did not want us to have to worry about using the right dishes. I think she just enjoyed hosting. Sarah was on bed rest, and Ellyn prepared a tray for her. The second night we were there, Sarah had some disconcerting pains during dinner, and Ellyn calmly wrapped up our bagels so we could take them to the hospital. When we came home a few hours later, they were waiting up to make sure we were okay.

I told Steven and Ellyn they had taken literally the Torah’s commandment to care for and love the stranger. Sarah and I were sojourners who had left our home and other children to visit this foreign place. In the midst of waiting, we discovered the joy of receiving literal “hospital-ity.” In contrast to the disorientation of the hospital, the care and healing we experienced in a stranger’s home was re-orienting. The welcome we received helped us get our bearings. It became a sabbath time, even sharing Shabbat dinner with our hosts each Friday night. In between my care giving tasks for Sarah, I delighted in finding flowers at the farmer’s market for the dinner table. During those weeks, we finally took some deep breaths after weeks of anxiousness. We were never totally at rest (Sarah was recovering from major surgery after all) but we were comfortably uncomfortable.

Advent is a season of disorientation and hospitality. Joseph and the pregnant Mary wander to Bethlehem, even as Mary offers room in her body for the baby Jesus. We open our doors to family and friends, maybe even strangers (the new significant other of an old relative perhaps), who have traveled far from home. Their presence is an occasion for joy but also makes us a bit uneasy. As we anticipate the birth of Christ in us, we encounter our own inner needy folk, asking for directions and care. We are both strangers and hosts, vulnerable and welcoming, disoriented and grounded. One of Advent’s gifts is a sense of Sabbath comfort that reorients us as we uncomfortably wait.

Let us pray:

O God, as we wait for Christ this Advent season, help us to open the doors of our hearts to welcome you. Give us the grace to joyfully accept the welcome of others, that together we might find rest in each other’s hospitality. Help us to love the needy ones within us as well as the strangers we meet as we try to find the way. Amen.

JoeHensleyThe Reverend Joseph (Joe) H. Hensley, Jr. works as a full-time priest at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham, NC. He lives with his wife, Sarah, and three children (ages 11, 6, and 2). This Advent he is waiting for God to help him laugh (again!

Third Sunday of Advent

[If you missed Susan's two previous posts, read about "Waiting with Hope" and "Love That Groans" from this midwife]

You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits. Isaiah 26:19b

As a midwife, I adore the sound of a newborn’s first cry cracking through the silence of the birth room with all the majesty and promise of new creation, all the power of God in one frail, squirming, wet body.  Each time, I am humbled.  Each time, I am inspired.  I see mothers and fathers reach new heights of joy and new depths of love in an instant, experiencing a glimmer of God’s love for them in the crashing wave of their own love for this newly born child.  The unspeakable joy of this moment is more magical and miraculous that any other I’ve seen, but it would be a great loss to see only the monumental joy of birth and to miss the joys of preparation.

Waiting and preparing offer the gifts of heightened senses, tuned in, zoomed in awareness of the good graces in daily living: food, companionship, home.  The ritual of “nesting” at the end of pregnancy can be a neurotic frenzy of angst and impatience, or a joyful preparation, an act of loving invitation for the beloved child one awaits.  Waiting for labor as mother or midwife, surrendering to complete lack of control, inclines one to alternately live on one’s toes, primed and ready, and then to rest and shore up, preparing for work.  I notice in this rhythm, when counting days, that hours crawl by, but life passes in a flash, so we must relish what is now.  Joy’s invitation is to embrace the liminal space, the in-between, to be present to this exact moment, this exact gift, and to be grateful.  Joy is born out of gratitude, and is a choice, an attitude, a muscle that must be exercised.  Thus each chance we have to practice pausing and offering thanks in the midst of anxiety is an opportunity to grow our joy.

Two months ago, I was preparing to accompany my sister to Uganda any day.  She is adopting a baby boy and has been waiting for a court date since late August.  I’d had a full summer of work and travel and was ready to put my head down and plow through another several weeks away from my home and husband.  Instead of unpacking from my previous trip, I just started packing for Uganda.  But my bag sat open for one week, then another.  I gradually pulled things out as I needed them and realized that I was languishing in a sort of no-man’s-land of time.

How could I settle in, get comfortable, and invest here and now when I might get called away any day?  What should I do with these days, weeks, months that I didn’t expect to have at home?

I had somehow managed to forget all of the tools I’ve honed for living on call as a midwife: waiting for births, sticking to my rhythms and rituals as I wait, and picking them up as soon as I return.  Cooking good food, exercising, and waking early in the morning all help me to stay oriented despite the unpredictability of my work.  And when I’m at my best, loyal to my rhythms and rituals, I find deep joy in daily life and deep joy in the exciting interruption of birth.

Waiting for my sister’s adoption is no different.  This is an invitation to be present to my home and my husband even as I wait for the exciting interruption of adventure.  I have begun to embrace this in between time, gone for hikes and watched the leaves turn as seasons change, and still I wait.  I am preparing a place for this child in my heart, and I relish the gifts of daily life, trusting that the time will come.

Let us pray:

God, please heighten my senses and tune me in to the small miracles of every day living, to the joys of preparation for that which I await.  Teach me to grow my own joy through gratitude and presence in each moment of every day.

SusanSmarttCookSusan currently lives with her dear husband and black lab in Edmond, OK where they attend St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. On any given day you will find Susan nurturing her small midwifery practice, her kitchen, and next year’s garden. Her hope for this advent is to be quiet, to reach deep into the soil of her soul with the tangled roots of her faith, and to find there the living water that nourishes new hope, love, joy, and peace into bloom.