Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"...the dear Christ enters in..."

Earlier this month, just as Advent was beginning, Iivo and I went on an "Ulti-mate" couples' prayer retreat. Just the two of us (and our workbooks) headed to a private retreat spot and got busy. We got busy examining our lives individually and considering how we're doing as a family. And what did we realize as we "got busy"? Among other things, we realized that we are busy! We are busy as individuals, busy as a couple, busy as a family. Now don't get me wrong. Most of the things we are doing, we are doing with great deliberateness and purpose. And we have made a concerted effort as a family to build "margin" into our lives by eliminating some superfluous activities this year. And yet, Iivo and I both felt an acute awareness of the unavoidable frenzy of this season in our family's life.

One of the things we decided to implement upon our return was what we've dubbed "downtime."

1 : time during which production is stopped, especially during setup for an operation or when making repairs
2 : inactive time (as between periods of work)

This glorious time occurred daily at 5:15 for about a week. Iivo was going into work earlier--it is much more produtive for him to get there before many others arrive--and trying to get home earlier in order to join us. But that first week of nightly "downtime," he wasn't able to make it. Nevertheless, at 5:15, the kids and I gathered in the den. We dimmed the lights and lit a few candles and turned on Pandora Radio's "instrumental praise." And then we began the serious business of making ourselves slow down. "Production stopped." We savored "inactive time between periods of work."

How hard it was at first! "But I need to just..."

Iivo didn't join us, but he felt the benefits of "downtime" immediately. The home he came home to was more peaceful. We were kinder. Happier. Calmer. Even the dogs.

He never did make it to join us, before the week of holiday hit, and with it the stomach flu that swept through our home. "Downtime" was abandoned in a blur of sickness and travel and preparation and celebration.

Tonight, we pulled it back out again. Oh, welcome back, friend!

I particularly love the words to the final stanza of the great Christmas carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv'n
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heav'n.
No ear may hear His coming,
But, in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in.

Such a sweet, sweet thing is the reality of His presence with us! And what a very sweet time it has become to stop and marvel in it.

Breathe deeply of Him.


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