More Surprise (Advent for the Skeptical and Weary, Part 6)

I started this series because I started this season feeling skeptical and weary. If you want to catch up, I’ve written about my petulant Christmas card processseasonal depression, the difficulty of hope, and being burnt out on giving and serving. Also: whiskey, crappy chocolate, and our troubling President-elect. Yes, it’s been merry indeed.

But in my last post I started exploring something I hadn’t given much credence to in this series yet: Surprise.

Among the questions I was mulling over this Advent was this:

What to do in a season of giving when you feel like you have nothing more to give?

Infographic from Mercy Corps, which is assisting 470,000 Syrians every month.

Infographic from Mercy Corps, which is assisting 470,000 Syrians every month.

know there is no requirement—ethically, religiously, cosmically, socially, even personally—to give anything more in the weeks leading up to Christmas than at any other time of the year, but something about consciously observing Advent made me want to. I had just written about how Advent looks forward to a better, more just and loving world. However, I also know that thinking of doing anything extra sounds stupid and masochistic when I’ve written so much about feeling spent. Like, hey idiot, just take a pass this year.

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Surprise (Advent for the Skeptical and Weary, Part 5)

I started this series because I started this season feeling skeptical and weary. If you want to catch up, I’ve written about my petulant Christmas card process, seasonal depression, the difficulty of hope, and being burnt out on giving and serving. Also: whiskey, crappy chocolate, and our troubling President-elect. Yes, it’s been merry indeed.

What I haven’t gotten to yet is surprise.

I ended my last post with a conundrum…

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Song Series #15)

This is the wonderful Charlie Hinst. He was born in a snowstorm. It was very cold outside indeed. Six years later, he is this big sweet boy with a big sweet heart… and an uncanny ability to commit things to memory. Like all the words of this song.

While you’re here… I’ve been creating all kinds of other things throughout Advent! Hope a few of these bring you some joy.

Songs

Santa Baby, The Coventry Carol, Gabriel’s Message

Advent for the Skeptical and Weary

A series of mini-essays on my petulant Christmas card process, seasonal depression, the difficulty of hope, weird religious language and getting burned out on service.

Little amusing things

Theological Cage Fight between my two-year-old and St. Augustine.

 

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pears and milk

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click on this image for a very very big version

Milo is asking about God.

He’s two and a half now. He orders me to “say pears” at bedtime when I forget. Saying pears sounds like a beautiful practice to me. To name a pear and then another pear: Limonera, Bosc, Bartlett, Anjou. Or in Latin, maybe, a Mass of pears: Pyrus nivalis, pyrus syriaca, pyrus sacrifolia… As it is, our bedtime prayers are rather repetitive. Charlie, my six-year-old, requires me to pray every night that God “keep away all the poisonous snakes and spiders and dangerous animals.”

So I think Milo must have picked up the name of God from my saying of the pears. And he keeps asking, “Where is she?”

He just assumes she’s a She. One of his first questions about God was “Does she have milk?” He sees drawings of angels and asks “Does she have milk?” I think nursing must have been the best time in his life, because we stopped when he was 14 months old and he’s still reminiscing.

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Coventry Carol (Song Series #14)

PlaceFamilyComesFrom

A page from the Comfort for Kids “My Story” workbook, which Mercy Corps made for Syrian refugee kids. The caption says “This is the place my family comes from.”

I think it’s just a fact of our human wiring. Things close at hand: more urgent than faraway things. Fresh and novel things: more compelling than familiar things. People like me: more compelling than people unlike me.

Maybe, then, after our years of seeing weepy charity commercials, it’s almost understandable: We just get inoculated against the problems of humans who are far away. We register it, we know it’s bad, we think it’s tragic, but we don’t acutely feel it. I’m writing from my own experience of inoculation. I’m in this same gray boat.

How do we make it feel real? How do we hack our wiring? Would it help if we thought of Syrian refugees, for example, as people with hobbies, favorite comedians, car problems, pop songs they know by heart, and the early morning craving for a cup of coffee? Because those things are actually true. We just see the news footage of the anguished woman with the head scarf running from the fire. But she is all of these things.

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