God In Aisle 7

God has a funny way of showing up in unexpected ways. Moses got a burning bush on a desert mountain. I got a stuffed bunny rabbit in Aisle 7 of the grocery store. God told Moses, in rather dramatic fashion, that God was the God of his ancestors. Me? I got a nudge to notice a cardboard display of Beatrix Potter’s rabbits. Moses stopped and listened and asked questions.  I noticed. Yep, there’s Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail. And I kept walking. I’m about to be 46 years old and I do not need a stuffed bunny rabbit from my childhood. That’s just silly.

But God seemed to think otherwise.

Honey, don’t you remember this? img_6533

Of course, I remember. I can still practically recite those stories. I loved Peter Rabbit.

But it wasn’t really the story of Peter Rabbit that mattered so much now. It was the memory of a time when life was simpler, back when someone was taking care of me instead of the other way around. It was remembering that sense of security that comes with being held and loved so completely, especially now, when I am feeling so completely tapped out.

Yes. I remember. 

And cue the waterworks. Right in the middle of the Aisle 8. And I don’t mean a stray a tear. I mean a good old dig-for-tissues cry next to the Pepsi display. And of course, I still had half the shopping to do yet. But, before anything else, I doubled back and picked up Peter Rabbit.

The grocery store may not look much like a desert mountain, but some days, it sure feels like one. The same God who has been at my side through the darkest times in my life is here with me now. And while a burning bush might freak the neighbors out just a bit, a stuffed bunny riding shotgun in my car’s cup holder barely raised an eyebrow when my son saw it. God let Moses know that he had the cries of his people. And God let me know – yet again – that he hears mine too.

God will not be distracted. And it seems, God will remind me of that fact from time to time in whatever way it takes to get my attention.

 

 

Advent, Music & Memories

Twelve notes. That’s all it took. Suddenly, I was 6 years old again, twirling around the living room with my father.

I took my younger son to see The Nutcracker and The Four Realms last night. I was a little shocked when the opening notes of the overture and the opening scene brought me to tears. Of all my father’s Christmas albums, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker was one of my favorites. I still listen to that music every year. He read me the story of Clara and The Nutcracker more times than I could ever count. I knew the movie was a different take on the story. And yet, with those few opening notes all the innocent wonder came flooding back. It was as if I was hearing it for the first time. 

It’s funny how much music is tied to memories. The Rolling Stones and baking endless batches of chocolate chip cookies. U2 and hanging Christmas lights. Pink Floyd and writing end of term papers. And of course, it wouldn’t be Advent without O Come, O Come Emmanuel and my father’s alternate lyrics inducing church giggles.

I have so many good memories of Advent and Christmas. And yet, as I sit on this dreary first Sunday of Advent, I find myself feeling a little off. Last year, the holidays were a time of great apprehension. This year, things are more stable but there’s that part of me that constantly asks, “For how long?” Last year was the year without a Christmas. I don’t want to be so afraid of a repeat occurrence that I miss out of what good can be this year. So, I’ve tried the last couple days to listen to some of my old Christmas favorites. I mean the really old childhood favorites from my father’s collection. These are the songs I asked for over and over that have nothing but good memories attached to them. This is my attempt at being hopeful. The Holly and The Ivy, The Coventry Carol, What Child Is This?, Carol of the Bells, and The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns lead the playlist. Yeah, I know, I was a weird kid with a great love of pipe organs, bells, and big choirs. 

What I’m finding is that trying to be hopeful is not really possible. Either I can cling to hope… or not. Either I can remain haunted by ghosts of unhappy Christmases past or I can let go and experience one full of joy, love, and wonder. The opening notes of the Nutcracker Overture caught me off guard in that movie theater last night because I went in not knowing what to expect. I was ready for something new, something unexpected, something wonderful and I was not disappointed.

Can I approach this season of Advent with that same kind of hopeful expectation? I suppose I shall have to wait and see.