It started out like a typical morning. She woke up at 6:00, prayed for various things and people, lacking the energy for the fervent prayer mentioned in the Bible, but with the knowledge that when you don’t have the energy to do something right, you do what you can. She got up at 6:30, plodded into the kitchen in her bathrobe and slippers, poured a cup of yesterday’s cold coffee with a splash of milk, and settled into her rocking chair to read a chapter in the Bible, something she’d done nearly every day since she was baptized when a 4th grader. It was a habit. It was a good habit. It did for her what she could not do for herself. It grounded her. It supplied wisdom that wasn’t hers. It made her believe in miracles.
It was December 23rd, and a few things still needed to be done before Christmas Day. She ran down to the laundry room, started a load of laundry and was grateful that some things did most of the work themselves, like a washing machine. She drove to the mall and picked up a few last minute gifts, then to the grocery store and home again to put everything away. She still needed to run into the city to shovel a walk or two at the home of her parents and their neighbors and fix greenery and berries in their window box – something that had been delayed due to the cold. It didn’t appear the cold would abate anytime soon, though, and Christmas was two days away! She would have to haul out the ladder and get it done despite the single digit temperature.
She called her teenage son to help her (the ladder would be too heavy for one person, or at least for her to manage alone), threw a shovel in the backseat, and pulled out of the driveway.
“Slow down, Mom,” her son cautioned.
The newly licensed driver was telling his mother what she sometimes said to him when their places were reversed. When did he get to be so responsible? However, five or ten miles per hour over the limit wasn’t hurting anyone, and Christmas was two days away!
A train whistle sounded in concert with her son’s voice. She looked to her left, and there it was. What?! She had never, in all the years she’d taken this route, seen a train on this rarely used track. She braked, but the car slid on the snowy street into the path of the coming train. She could see every detail on the approaching train and as crazy as it was, considering the situation, thought it was pretty. Things do that. During the emergencies of life, things slow down, details sharpen. Maybe that’s the way things really are, and all of the other times, the times when we go about our daily business, are when we see least clearly. She gunned the accelerator and flew over the track as the train passed behind them.
And that was when two facts made their way to the front of all of the other things that needed to be done two days before Christmas. Christmas would come whether or not there was enough food in the refrigerator or the house was clean or cookies were baked. It would come despite the most beautiful decorations or no decorations at all. It would come because birthdays aren’t dependent on what we do in the days and months and years afterward to celebrate the event, but because the event happened at a place in time and cannot be changed whether people want to celebrate it or ignore it or despise it.
The second fact she remembered was that life is a series of doing what you can with God filling in the gaps. She was grateful for that because she would never be great or even adequate, but God would always be more than enough.
And that, dear readers, is a miracle in my December posts on miracles that is personal; because the she in this post is me, and Christmas is one day away, and I’m still here.