Advent, Faith, Stories

Postcard Angel

 

light-671915_1920
Lit Advent Candles

 

In December, a postcard arrived in the mail. It was an everyday postcard. Nothing marked it as special or holiday like. Except the message.“Happy Advent,” it read.

I smiled remembering a moment with a friend. The Sunday school classroom we shared emptied of active and noisy four-year-olds. In the new quiet I spoke of my love for the season of Advent.  The getting ready for hope found in a mere babe born to the have-nots of their time. Finding comfort in the liturgical color blue, so like the winter Midwestern sky at dawn and dusk. Enjoying the daily lighting of a growing line of flickering candles helping me mark the busy days turned to weeks leading up to Christmas. Singing hymns full of ancient tones which never fail to resonate with my own earthly and human longings.

This Advent however, I was not hopeful. Our children were unhappy at school, Tony’s work and commute were stressful, and many family members needed our help. I was worn out, feeling stuck, and just waiting for the frantic holiday season to end. Hope was not on my holiday menu.

The postcard’s arrival however gently nudged me into this quiet season so often lost in the chaos of December. It’s simple message stirred in me something I was having trouble grasping in my overwhelmed state of heart and mind. With the help of my dear friend now living far away, I remembered the calm, reflective, emotional state I longed for. Hope in the unexpected form of a postcard fed me. And I was transformed into a lowly shepherd keeping watch over my family flock with the words of the angels rising in my ears, “Do not be afraid.”

As we moved through December into January,  the winter snow continued reflecting an Advent blue at dawn and dusk in January’s sky. The light reminded me of the slow and steady movement it takes to make good and lasting change in our lives. Advent hope came with me in a way it had not in previous years. Hope did not follow the traditional liturgical calendar. But it came in a predictable sequence of waiting, wondering, and realizing nonetheless. Living in our own Advent, Tony and I reexamined our life together finally accepting the necessary uprooting needed to be closer to Tony’s work and for new schools for our children.

January gave way to February. The blue evening sky appeared out my window later and later each evening. The darkness yielded to the increasing light of an awakening world. I was calm once again. My heart embracing our own small portion of this universe. My face turning toward the future full of unknowns yet also brimming with hope. My voice humming as I packed for our journey. My song gathering strength note by note before spreading out into embodied praise: “Glory to God in the highest and peace to God’s people on earth.”

abendstimmung-217584_1920
Dawn

 

A version of this piece was originally published by The Lutheran Digest in December of 2012.  Photos are courtesy of Pixabay. 

Advertisements
Stories

THE SISTERHOOD OF THE SIMPLE SWEEP

My broom
My broom

I’m sweeping, collecting grit, crumbs, hair, and bits of this and that from the wood floor. The movement, back and forth, back and forth across the floor, calms my already mounting anxieties about the day. Back and forth, under and around, left and right my broom and I move across the floor of our home leaving small piles here and there to be swept up with the dust bin and washed down the kitchen sink—a practice my family finds disgusting.

My daily request is for no one to barge through my morning reverie scattering the accumulation of my work (an offering of sorts to the ancient Gods of home and hearth) back into the corners of our life. “Don’t step in the pile,” is a directive my children learned from me and use often when given the sweeping chore.

My mother sniffs a bit about my sweeping habit. “Just moving the dust around,” she comments when she observes me at this task. Her words sound more like copy for a 1950’s vacuum cleaner advertisement than the mother I know and love.  But because she is my mother, I do admit she may have a point…

My husband too doesn’t understand my need to sweep. He loves the vacuum and doesn’t realize how disturbing I find the noise. The burr of the motor halts all conversation in our home disrupting my sense of life’s musical pitch . Vacuuming relaxes my husband.  But for me the pushing forward and back of the machine feels like work. Sweeping is a dance—to the right. Pull in. Right pull in. Step to the right, out and pull in again.

Yet I don’t sweep to just rid our home of its souvenirs from last night’s dinner, soccer game mud, winter road sand, midnight snacks, or dust bunnies. I don’t sweep just to have a few moments of silence or to meditate or as a form of exercise. I don’t sweep in opposition to my mother or husband.

Shed broom
Shed broom

Women have swept their homes in all seasons for thousands of years whether that home was a tent, long house, earthen stuga, log cabin, farm house, apartment, or suburban ranch. Women have swept up after others as daughters, servants, slaves, wives, mothers, and grandmothers. Women have swept up after a house full of people or only one or two. Women have swept even when there was nothing more to sweep.

Of course men sweep. But the lineage of this action in the home is still young, just decades old and in its infancy by comparison. For women, the lineage of sweeping runs deep, long, and universally through our connective molecules to antiquity.

The real reason I sweep with an old style broom spurning modern conveniences such as vacuums, sweeper cloths, and vacuum sticks is because this ancient, non-mechanized, daily task connects me to the past, my past, and in doing so to every woman I am descended from. This connection is not factual, does not contain primary or secondary sources, or even handed-down stories.  This connection is visceral and not quantifiable.

Swedish hearth broom and Filipino brooms for rice.
Swedish hearth broom and Filipino brooms for rice.

Oh I admit the practice began out of necessity. The crumbs of my life by myself and then with others needed tending to. A simple broom was cheap by comparison to other sweeping tools when money was short. But this ancient ritual of making ready for the day, whether in the morning or evening, over time and experience became gift giving. Somehow an emotional door opened, allowing me access to my sisters across time. I felt the ancient stories of their lives told through this daily chore as we shared sweeping with song and dance when full of joy, good news, and accomplishment or with the slow methodical movements when lost in in the sorrow of bad news, illness, worries over children, or the death of loved ones.

As women, we sweep because we tell ourselves it must be done. Yet maybe I still sweep because this connection to the past with the movement of the broom grounds me to the earth from which I have come and will one day return. The swish of the broom is the tick of the clock, the set of the sun at evening, the rise in the morning, and a routine which allows me to think when thinking seems impossible. IMG_20150529_142111_636

My broom swings again to the right pulling crumbs toward me. Apple pie crust, kale chips, a vitamin, and dust bunny join together forming my first pile of the day. I swing out again pulling in more and in doing so hear women who are strangers to me. Their time and place beyond my knowledge of life. Yet with each movement, I sense their joys, sorrows, frustrations knowing on an emotional, non-verbal level these women tell their stories in the only way they can—through  the chores which defined their daily existence.

061

We are not so different, these women I do not have names for or who have passed on within my lifetime or who are still in my life. We sweep across countries, states, towns, land, language, era, occupation, and human rights joined together by a simple, repeating, movement.  We are bond together like straw, woven with string to make a broom. We are a sisterhood, sharing as best we can our crumbs, hopes, and dreams.

Brooms made the old way.
Brooms made the old way.