Thursday, December 23, 2010

Saying Yes to the Impossible

Because my free time has been very limited over the past months, and because I am now writing for a living, I have been spending far more time on Facebook than on Blogger.  When I'm sitting at my computer, working on an article or a grant, I can flip over to Facebook for a five minute break, and happily, I've been able to keep up with some of my blogging friends this way.  One of those friends is Claire, of A Seat at the Table.  Today she has shared several wonderful ruminations on Advent and Christmas, which I have been so inspired by that I had to come blog about it, even though a huge pile of laundry, an unwritten article, and unbaked goodies await my attention.

One of the links she shared was a post called Annunciations All the Time, at dotMagis.  The author shares the poem, "Annunciation," by Denise Levertov (one of my favorite poets).  This poem deals with the idea that we are always being presented with things to say "yes" to the way Mary said yes to the angel.  And this brought me back to something I've been ruminating about this Advent, which is the part of Mary's 'yes' that included giving birth away from home, in a stable (or cave, as I hear is more accurate).

It seems to me that if an angel came to me and told me I was going to give birth to the son of God, saying yes would be a no-brainer.  But then if the time came to give birth and I found myself far from home and family, in a dirty stable, I'd be questioning if it really was God after all.  I'd be thinking, "This can't be right, this can't be the way such a one should be born."

Last year, I blogged about the messiness of Christmas.  This year, I am deeper in the messiness, not just of Christmas but of life.  How is it that my most cherished notions of the way things should be can be so far from reality?  It helps me to think of Mary in the stable, saying Yes.

Claire shared another poem by Denise Levertov, on her own blog today, and this one is about the importance of welcoming grief when it comes.  I can't help but put this together with my Mary rumination.  When we think of grief, we usually think of the big losses, of people we love dying, but there are so many little losses.  So many.  And some losses we experience as big even when they might not seem so to others.  I think again of Mary in the stable, of reconciling with the loss of an imagined experience of giving birth surrounded by the comfort and familiarity of home and loved ones.  For me, this would likely bring a sense of great loss, and I would grieve.  For Mary, it was the introduction to a life of losses around her son.  And for all of us with children, we know that the moment we give birth, we begin to lose them.

To allow grief is to say yes to the loss that has caused the grief, and then to open up a new and more abundant set of possibilities.  This is what I continue to learn at deeper and deeper levels, or actually, in more and more circumstances, even the ones that have seemed impossible to accept.

The third link Claire has shared today is to a post called The Christmas We Are Waiting For, by Sister Joan Chittister, and it reflects upon the Advent theme of waiting.  Chittister comments that Christ's birth was really about establishing a whole new order, which in many ways, disappointed those who were waiting for a Messiah.  She asks, "For what have we been waiting...For the restoration of the old order or for the creation of the new?"

The creation of the new may be very different from what I had imagined and thought right, and I will grieve the loss of the old, but doing so may be the only way to really let go of it and welcome true freedom, peace, and joy.

May we all be awake to the blessings of the season, in whatever messy form they come.


  1. Welcome back to blogland, Polli! I must say I've missed you. Facebook I haven't been able to face.

  2. I have to agree that Facebook is an easy way of keeping in touch with the outside world when one has deadlines. I used it constantly as I was marking student papers, when I didn't have the head-space to compose a blog post, or read and comment thoughtfully on other people's blogs. Perhaps it is part of the new order.

  3. Polli, the way you place side by side or face to face the Annunciation and Grief, the way you suggest to accept the inevitable reminds me so much of the book I am reading right now, Jean-Pierre de Caussade's _Sacrament of the Present Moment_ where Christ comes in all things that happen to us. Quite a feat when you think of the hardships experienced by some.

    Anyway, I really like the way you wove your life, your thoughts, and those poems together.

    As Dan said, you have been missed in blogland!

    Merry Christmas!

  4. Dan- Thank you! I used to be the same way abbout Facebook, but it finally won me over.

    Eryl - That's it exactly: "when I didn't have the head-space ot compose a blog post, or read and comment thoughtfully on other people's blogs." I sometimes still read people's posts, but can't comment thoughtfully so often don't at all.

    Claire - You are making me very interested in reading that book! I have many times had the experience of Christ coming into "big" things that have happened to me; what I'm learning to do know is let that happen with the little things, and the ongoing things.

  5. Speaking of limited free time...I should've commented on this post a long time ago (when I read it, for example).

    This is a new take on grief. My mother once told me that, according to her own ruminations, grief could be considered a selfish emotion. We are not grieving for the sake of what has been lost, per se; we grieve because of the loss we ourselves feel. It's not for the sake of the lost that we grieve; it's our own. We're feeling the pain of the hole in our heart, not the empty seat or the good times come to an end.

    Glad to hear your take on it.

  6. What your mother says is true, but the way I see it, it's actually more selfish not to grieve, because when we block that process we stop the flow of life both within ourselves and out to others.

    Thanks for visiting, Postie!



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