Advent.  I have left space everywhere, bringing out only the things that truly seem beautiful to me this year.  At night, when the candles are lit and the twinkle lights plugged in, I think it's the loveliest place I've ever seen.  There's a steady, comforting beat of "enough" in my heart, a true contentment with what we have and where we are. 

We're a little tucked away here in our woods, without TV reception or paper delivery, so going to others' houses over the holidays and seeing the barrage of commercials and the reams of ads was a bit shocking.  I could feel my pulse pick up speed as plans swirled for gifts and shopping trips and new gadgets were compared and discussed.  

Thump, thump, thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthump.  

A couple of days before the holidays, we had delivered food baskets to a few families and I was still carrying around the heaviness that came from peering into the cold grind of poverty.  We hadn't planned on delivering the baskets, but after church there was a need for drivers and we had the time, so we grabbed a list and made the rounds.  I was wearing a pair of dress boots and a skirt and a wool coat.  At the first house, the woman came to the door with holes in her jeans and her weariness plain on her face; the smell of decay and sadness leaked out and hit us square.  I stood there in my beautiful clothes with my white, straight teeth and my salon haircut, with my good, strong, faithful husband beside me and all my wealth showing plainly and I awkwardly handed over the food basket.  She burst into tears and covered her face.  I could feel her shame and it mingled with my own and nearly doubled me over.  Sometimes I forget just how much we have. 

It took several days for the horrified feeling of guilt to dissipate and it was still with me on Thanksgiving.  Like most people I suppose, we talked over meals about the right and wrongness of Black Friday and shopping on a holiday, and we talked about the cycles of poverty and the cycles of wealth and I told my story about delivering food, but mostly I was rocking inside, repeating to myself the question, "Just who do I think I am?" 

A couple of years ago I was carrying around all my superiority about materialism and I made a smug remark to the grocery clerk about the shame of Black Friday. She looked at me quietly and told me that Black Friday was the one time of year she could afford to go buy socks and coats and maybe a small Christmas gift for her children. "Oh," I said and quickly signed for the groceries, a lump gathering in my throat from the privilege that had just hit me between the eyes again. 

I've been turning it over in my mind, thinking about how many things can be true at the same time.  It's true that there would be more money for groceries without cable TV and cigarettes.  It's true that our houses are packed with too much stuff and we're blinded by materialism.  And it's true that almost nothing is that plain and simple.  

Elisabeth Leseur wrote,

"To think is excellent;

to pray is better;

to love is everything."  

Just who do I think I am?   A woman who is quick to categorize and find evidence to support my own views, an expert in weighing and judging and dismissal.  And yet, as I examine myself in the quiet of these early Advent days, I think I'm a woman who is learning to love, learning to look honestly at people as individuals and learning to see around stereotypes.  There's a space inside me that is widening, a door I am learning to hold open instead of closing it tightly in judgement.  This is the part of love that has often escaped me, the opening of my self to the other person, to receive them simply as they are - without pity, without disdain -and to be received simply as I am - without apology and without excuse.  Maybe it is love that is thumping in my heart, "enough, enough, enough, enough,"  and drowning out the need to label and shape and control other people, myself, the world.  I hope so.

Enough, enough, enough.

Enough, enough, enough.

Enough, enough, enough.