Mormon Lectionary Project: Peace

Sometimes your Christmas season is a joyful and spiritual season of peace.  Sometimes it is a jolly pastiche of fun, family, and friends.  And sometimes it is a Dickensian/O. Henry mashup that you just hope to survive.  I was hoping for joyful and spiritual season of peace.  I would have settled for the jolly pastiche.  Apparently, this is the year for literary irony and urgent care visits.

“Yes, BCC permabloggers, I’d be happy to write about peace for our annual advent series” she said weeks before the December 10 deadline.  The problem is that I can’t seem to slow down enough to formulate any thoughts about peace, let alone genuinely feel it.  So, that has been my project for the past few weeks:  find moments of peace in chaos.

Thankfully, that seems to have been possible, almost by a sheer force of will.  I found that a couple of minutes cuddling in front of the lighted Christmas tree before I finally enforced bedtime to be a fleeting a welcome peace.  Sticky kisses and “I love you”s were a brief respite from chaos.  And just a few minutes to be alone during my commute to work, listening to Christmas music, helped me plan what I needed to do for the kids.  Even though I’ve been sick with a particularly bad strain of bronchitis for about a week, I was able to find those moments.  I started to realize that the common denominator of these welcome and fleeting moments was love.

So I began to formulate a thesis for my Christmas sermon to you.   I toyed with the notion that finding moments of peace must be a decision.  It comes when we choose to love and accept those around us, despite all of our mutual flaws.  Fundamentally, when we really believe Christ’s commandment to love one another, we can be blessed with the consequences that flow from it.  Those consequences are light and peace—a real celebration of the Christmas spirit.  I do believe that the blessing of the Christmas season is that the reflected light of the crèche can inspire us in greater numbers to tackle this difficult commandment and extend His light to others.  I wanted to use my most convincing words to urge you to extend yourselves to love others, even those who are hard to love, because it’s in doing this difficult and perhaps unreciprocated act, that we can find genuine peace.

And then the literary irony started.  Yesterday afternoon I was standing in front of the Christmas tree, following a not particularly pleasant argument with my 10-year old.  I turned to go into the kitchen and caught my foot under a chair.  I fell hard.  Squarely on my left knee and stomach.  It knocked the wind out of me and I could tell I had injured my leg.  I laid on the floor unable to catch my breath, then I started a hacking cough, panting, and crying.  I couldn’t get up, I couldn’t get enough air, I couldn’t tell what was wrong with my leg, and I heard the baby, now awake, start crying upstairs.

I just laid there for a while, and then felt a little hand patting me.  I looked up and my sweet foster daughter was standing there with round eyes and a baggy full of ice.  “What else do you need?”  she whispered.   “Water and my asthma inhaler” I gasped.  She ran and came back with a glass and my inhaler.  Then she went to get a phone.  “Do we need to call someone?”  “No sweetheart, no, I’m okay.  I’m just going to go into the bathroom and breathe some steam.”  I dragged myself up and limped to the bathroom as she said “I’ll get the baby” and ran upstairs.  I leaned over the sink gagging and coughing and trying not to cry, and soon I heard little scratches and toddler giggles outside the door.  The baby strode into the bathroom pantsless and ready to play.  His big sister, eyes still round, threw her arms around my neck.  Clearly scared.  “I changed his diaper…” she whispered in my ear.  She might as well have said “I did the grossest thing I could do for you, because I’m scared and I love you.”  What a gift.

I decided we should call someone.  Ten minutes later, my dear friend was at my doorstep, ready to watch the kids while I went to urgent care—asking what else she could do as I limped out the door.  At urgent care, I called the social worker and cried, overwhelmed.  “I don’t know how I’m going to take care of them alone this weekend.  I’m so sick, and I can barely walk.”  Within ten minutes another foster mom (the amazing woman who I want to be if I ever become an adult) had agreed to take them overnight so I could sleep and keep off my leg.  A couple hours later, with a diagnosis of a sprained knee and some powerful cough medicine, I headed home to send the kids off on their overnight adventure.  My very kind friend—an experienced mom–had already packed them up, and stayed to help me get them out the door.  As she left, I just stood in the doorway and cried.  “You’re a good mom” she assured me.  I cried harder.

A half an hour later, my amazing Mormon neighbors showed up on my doorstep with a plate of, I kid you not, Mormon funeral potatoes leftover from the ward Christmas party.  Some people say I love you with a bottle of wine, but we say it with cheesy potatoes.  Clearly the Mormons are doing something right.  We had discussed earlier that the baby’s room was a little cold, so they came in and winterized the windows for me.  They also dropped off a gingerbread house that they baked for us and invited us over to decorate on Friday night.  I sat in the recliner and tried not to cry.  Unable to do anything but just accept their love.

And then they left.  And it was just me and the dog.  She licked my toes to say I love you.  And it really was peaceful.  No one needed anything from me.  All I had to do was sleep and get better.  And for the past twenty-four hours, it has been utterly peaceful in my house.  No noise.  No chaos.  Just peace.  And really, it was not about me selflessly giving love at all.  It was about me just broken and tired and sick and swollen and hurting, accepting selfless love and service from all these people in my life.

I had written a cerebral sermon for you that I hoped to make poetic.  And then I lived the mirror of that sermon.  All of that love I had meant for others was instead poured over me.  And I’m still kind of a weepy mess.  But I’m now offering you a different sermon, and this one is sincere and not particularly cerebral:  John 13:34:  “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

Comments

  1. Life is chaos and pain, peace and joy. Sometimes we give, sometimes we receive. You’re doing so much to provide peace and safety to your kids and so many others around you; I’m so grateful that the kids and your friends were there to grant you peace in turn.

  2. Beautiful.

  3. EnglishTeacher says:

    Loved this. What a necessary reminder that the saints rely on one another and there’s no shame in it—just blessings from mutual service and awareness of our brothers and sisters.

    And, because it’s a compulsion: **O. Henry

  4. Thank you, English Teacher. I should have double checked. :)

  5. This post left me in tears. I’m so glad you reached out and that people were there with open arms. I am so touched by your 10-year-old changing the toddler’s diaper, the gift she wanted to give because she knew it would express love and care. I’m glad you are finding peace tonight. (And maybe I can spread some cheesy potato love in my own neighborhood this week.)

  6. Beautiful, Karen.

  7. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for this lovely and very personal Advent reflection.

  8. It’s funny how life takes our cerebral sermons and flips the script. I am so grateful for you; for your willingness to give, to love, to open yourself, to be vulnerable…and to accept the grace and love poured out for you. I love you.

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