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What are You Waiting for?

Christmas is a season.

So say the marketers whose motive may spring more from extended shopping opportunities than increased reflection about the Messiah.

A large chunk of Christmas is in the waiting, which throbs like a heartbeat beneath the other myriad tasks that vie for our attention. We wait for packages to arrive, for snow to fall, for guests to come through the door. Children wait for Christmas, though the effort is more audible.

Marriage is a dream we long for. Every night my twins pray "to have a good marriage and shun adultery." They started two years ago when they were five. If they keep this up, after two decades they will have prayed for marriage seven thousand times. I remember planning my wedding as a little girl. I told my sister I wanted the Hallelujah Chorus as a recessional, as it was the happiest song I knew. She laughed at me. (I changed my mind)

Pregnancy is a lab in the art of waiting... for a swelling belly, for a quickening, for the moment when life shifts into a whole new realm and your heart breaks open. You are poised to see this small, precious face for the first and millionth time, and hear the soft breathing that feels like a lullaby. If you try to carry on normal conversation with a pregnant woman, everything she says is colored by the building sense of what is to come. She is expecting.

Imagine, if instead of the budding anticipation of a magical morning through weeks of preparation, Christmas arrived like a surprise 30th birthday party when all your friends throw on the lights and yell "Merry Christmas!". Would you feel gypped of the chance to get ready? Other people offer you brightly wrapped presents, peanut brittle and cocoa, but you are empty handed.

What would happen if that was how a wedding worked... you stroll into church thinking you are going to just another Sunday service and it turns out to be a wedding, and the bride is you? You thought you were coming to hear a sermon and a few prayers and instead you are ushered up the aisle by a man whose acquaintance you have not yet made, and all the faces are smiling at you and a few are crying.

What would it be like if babies plopped into your life, with no preliminary hint? You crawl into bed at eleven after a leisurely evening with another couple, and are abruptly awakened at two am by an infant crying to nurse? Around his wrist is a bracelet that says,"For you, with love. God." He nuzzles in closer and you scramble to know how to care for this fragile newborn you have had no lead time to fall in love with. Pregnancy is a more gradual way to ease into the job. That is handy, as the promotion has a way of ratcheting up our routine.

What happens when a friend gives you something you didn't even know you wanted? Once my husband gave me ox gall. It was part of a collection of other mysteries, and I tried to be polite. Really I did.

"Thank you for the ox gall, honey!"

Alum, combs, and carageenan followed, and finally a book teaching me how to marble fabric and paper.  The new art form has brought me years of fun, and kept me wondering what exquisite pattern would appear on the "size" waiting to be caught up on silk or parchment. I was later more fully impressed to discover that ox gall retails for $160 a liter. (Apparently an ox is not partial to sharing)

Christmas, marriage, and babies for that matter are each a collection of gifts that include things we have been waiting for for a long time, and other surprises we didn't think to request. Ox gall had never made it to my wish list before it appeared under my Christmas tree. Neither did Lost Sleep, or a Partner Who Tends to Lose His Keys. In my early twenties, I never sighed with my chin propped in my palm, wistfully aching for a chance to perform midnight vigil over a fevered child, or the opportunity to stumble through advanced listening skills in marriage group. Yet those stocking stuffers have enriched my experience of parenting and marriage, if only as a reference point for the miracle of robust health and smooth communication. I never asked for them, but I have learned to say thank you anyway.

My husband is smart. He knew, as I did not, that learning how to marble would be nifty. God is ever smarter. He knows that marriage and babies, and His Coming will bless us beyond measure. Some of the accessories are messy, inconvenient, or expensive.

But all of them are worth waiting for.