With focused determination I slowly piece together a ridiculously complicated floor puzzle. Over time a large smiling farmer perches happily atop a John Deere tractor. The man and the words, "John Deere" are easy, but the rest of the pieces - black and yellow tires and the plain green body cut in strange shapes and sizes - have me turning piece after piece in circles. I try and try for a fit as little hands and feet dislodge whole sections mere seconds after their completion.
It's sheer chaos and the stress of focusing in the midst of it all rivals the near panic attack I have every time I try to put together our ridiculously complicated tree-house tent.
As a mother of young children, I've learned to focus like a ninja, because it's the only way I can get anything done. There are always two or three people talking at me, no matter what I'm doing. Raising four children isn't like walking and chewing gum at the same time, it's more like walking and talking and building a miniature model of the International Space Station while humming a lullaby and taming wild shrews.
I am this mama on the floor doing the impossible day after day after day.
Kneeling there I feel the intensity of my focus, the intensity of this skill that's being tested and forged every day and I wonder, what's this capacity that's being born in me, even here, even now?
* * *
Later in the week I sit typing at the computer, writing a sermon for the first time since the twins were born. I've preached in the years since their birth, but without manuscript, speaking from notes scribbled in colored crayon and marker on (I kid you not) pieces of paper towel scrounged from the bathroom at Panera.
My preaching style has relaxed, you could say, since my life exploded, but for some reason I'm sitting, typing, word for word, what I already know I want to say.
It's a familiar passage, one I explored with my students every semester of every year I taught and I already know what God is asking me to do, but I'm scared.
What I believe is that I simply need to offer the passage and the people in it as a space where the congregation can enter in and encounter Christ, everyone receiving something different as we all gather together around the table of God's word.
The passage tells the story of Jesus' dinner at Simon the Pharisee's house and, for years, I've had the idea of telling that story while setting a table. But setting a table as I speak, laying a table cloth, plates, napkins and cups, means no notes, no manuscript, just sheer presence as we all enter, together, into the meal.
I know that I know the story, but I'm worried about my ability to focus, to tend to so many things - the sermon, the spirit, the table - while speaking.
Then God stirs within me and I see myself kneeling on the floor with that ridiculously complicated puzzle in the middle of all of that Crazy and I hear my question anew even as I know the answer.
* * *
"What capacity is being born in me, even here, even now?"
Advent is a season that calls us to ponder, to wait and wonder, to listen for the stirrings of what new thing God might be doing in and through us.
God is always at work, preparing in us that which will be needed. All of the moments of time that seem wasted - the detours, distractions, the many, many pieces of the puzzle that simply seem not to fit - none of these are without purpose, none without reason, none wasted.
My question was one born of frustration and curiosity, but to even ask the question, to wonder and wait for the answer to be revealed, is an act of faith. Because our inability to see or understand what God is doing, doesn't mean that God isn't actively bringing into being what's most needed in us and in the world.
So let me ask you, as we enter the season of Advent together . . .
What capacity, what new thing, is being born in YOU, even here, even now?