Monday, December 26, 2011

Being the One Waited For

I stepped off the airplane and moved down the ramp with my luggage. I flew into Grand Island, NE this time, a small town with an even smaller airport. As I walked toward the single gate, I see my dad right in front, looking and waiting for me to get there. He hugs me, grabs my luggage away from me and we head out to the car.

After we're buckled in and on the road, his cell rings. He answers and I hear my brother's voice say "Has she landed yet?" I laugh at the tone of his voice. Our plane was 30 minutes late, but I knew Randy was impatient for my arrival. He's always been that way.

After a few minutes, my dad hangs up the phone and tells me that Randy has prepared a vehicle for me to drive for the week if I need it; being from a family of farmers we rarely have a shortage of extra pick ups and SUVs around. He asked if I wanted to pick it up on the way or if Randy should take it up to the house. I told him we could simply stop by the shop to pick it up to save him a trip. (After all, it is a 12 mile drive.)
Dad and I made our way through town with Mom's list of things to do before we came home on the dashboard in front of me. We stopped at my brother's bank (he's a fancy VP there) and dropped off some cookies for his co-workers. I needed to stop at Walgreens to get the liquids that wouldn't fit into my quart-size bag on the flight. Lunch stop at Valentino's (my favorite pizza!) and we were finally on our way home.

I realized something I've never thought about before: Jesus is not the only one people wait for during the Advent season. I was someone my family had waited for, too. All the preparations had been made, from the flight pickup, to the car, to the sheets on the guest bed being cleaned. I hadn't been home since last Christmas. In some ways, it felt like it had been forever. In others, it felt like I never left.

As we get older, move away from home and establish a life separate from our families, coming "home" feels different. I waited for it, desperately homesick, needing a break from ministry and from Arizona. I needed a break from people needing me, and I needed to be in a place where I could just be me, and not the one others expect me to be. I am blessed that my family gets that. They get me. They even made preparations for me and waited for me.

Not everyone gets that. How blessed am I?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Hush of Advent

I'm teaching a two-part series on Advent on the 11 and 18th of this month, so I've been studying, writing, and researching about the history of advent, the scriptures associated with advent, and how the church practices (or often, doesn't) it. I write a lot of curriculum. It’s part of my job; it’s what I love and a big part of what I am called to do. But this one has been tough. I’ve had a hard time motivating myself to get it organized. I’m put it off in lieu of other things. I have not been able to sit down and write this one easily. And it took me a while to understand why.

On the Meyer’s Briggs personality test, I am an INFJ. When I first tested for this in seminary, I was borderline N/S and F/T. Then when I had to do my family genogram ( for my Marriage and Family Counseling class, I discovered something very interesting. I had my immediate family all take the Meyers Briggs and the rest of my family all tested as S’s and as T’s. My counseling professor (Dr. Zink) told me this is why I am on the borderline of both N and F, saying that I was probably naturally an N and F, but my environment (i.e. family) forced me into acting more like an S and a T. (Then, of course, I recall how Dr. Zink told me those were the two that are the hardest to be different from your family. Story of my life – once a black sheep, always a black sheep.)

What does this have to do with Advent? Weirdly enough, snow.

Those of you who’ve read my blog for a while know the love affair I have with snow. It’s God’s cruel joke that he called me to a church in southern Arizona, because of how much I love snow. I love that after the beautiful fall colors fade to brown, snow blankets the earth with sparkly white jewels than shine in the sun. Snow settles the earth down, because people don’t like to drive in the snow (it’s dangerous). They don’t go outside (because it’s too cold). Snow makes the word stop. So it should be with my heart and Advent.

I think there is some beauty with Advent being the start of the church calendar and it’s a season of waiting. “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;” – Ps. 37:7

We are called to wait for the revealing of God’s will in our everyday life. The season of Advent is about celebrating the second coming of Jesus, which hasn’t come yet. So we wait. Advent is not part of Christmas. It’s preparation for Christmas. It’s preparation for his arrival. Because I’m introverted, I prepare in a “put my head down” kind of way. I’d much rather be in my head, think it all through, then carefully work through it outside myself. I don’t always get that luxury, but that is my preferred way of functioning.

This is where I am making the connection – the “S” side of me (the sensing side, which prefers experience over intuition, the concrete over the subjective.) In other words, the things which use our 5 senses: touch, smell, site, hear, taste. For me, seeing snow sends me inside… it makes me quit and reflective. Snow does, in many ways, represent a kind of death for me. The bugs die, the plants die, the grass dies. My environment of snow is a way the sensing side of me triggered my heart and mind to become reflective. Snow is a way the world is hushed.

But here in Arizona, the season of Advent is when you go outside. It’s 70 and beautiful. The sun shines, it’s finally comfortable weather after 6 months of 100 degree temps. This is not the time southern Arizona calms down. This is the time it comes alive. Winter visitors come in droves, traffic picks up, tons of bicyclists hit the road. This is not a quiet time for Arizona. And my brain, after years of living in the snow in December, is wired to shut down this time of year. And I realized this is always helped me celebrate Advent properly.

So this season of Advent feels very strange to me. My first winter here I had so much on my plate at work that I barely got through the season and survived. This year, I was in a position where I could delegate more work, and therefore, have more time to focus on the things in my gifting and strengths. And here I am… struggling with one of my strengths. All because there is no snow.

Ok, well not “all”. I’m pretty sure I have some fault in this. I need to figure out another way to quiet myself. I should, anyway, even if I do live in a place where it snows. Snow just made it easier for me. Now I’ve just got to do some hard work.

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