A few gentle reminders to stop, relax and think about what
really needs to happen in this holy season began with a snowstorm
this past weekend. We shortened our to-do list, changed many of our
plans and settled down to get as much accomplished indoors as
possible. I (Ann) told Jim I was going to make chocolate pecan
turtles to go with the cookies we were making for our sons and
His immediate response was, "Oh no! Just stick with the old
favorites; the cookies you've always made. Don't try anything new
at this late date."
I reminded him that, at my age, I usually do whatever I want,
and I wanted to try to make the pecan turtles. He gave up. I made
the turtles. They were a little more difficult to make than I
thought, but they looked presentable. I bit into one. The caramel
had gotten chewier than it should have been. Within a few seconds,
I realized there was something small, round and hard in the
It turned out the caramel had removed the crown from one of my
teeth: so much for being in charge and doing what I wanted. The
worst part wasn't thinking of how much a new crown would cost. The
worst part was having to tell Jim he had been absolutely right.
This past week, the world mourned the passing of Nelson Mandela,
a great humanitarian who spent 27 years in prison. For all of those
years, Mandela was painfully aware he was not in charge of his
life. Even though he was imprisoned during what should have been
his most productive years, much that was meaningful happened during
those long years of waiting.
Though he wasn't released until he was almost 72 years old, he
still had enough time left to make enormous contributions to peace.
That gives those of us who are in our later years much hope. Like
Abraham and Sarah, Mandela is a sign that no matter how advanced we
are in age, there is still much we can accomplish.
The manner in which Mandela spent his time in prison teaches us
how to wait in ways that are mentally and spiritually productive.
While imprisoned, he completed a bachelor degree in law from a
college in England. He also forged positive relationships with his
jailers and wrote and rewrote the few letters he was allowed to
send to others. Once released, he resolved to leave all anger and
any regrets behind so that he would be truly free. He taught all of
us that a time of waiting can also be a time of great personal
For many of us, our greatest contributions in our later years
may come through devoted, focused prayer. Though we might never see
the results of our prayers in this life, in the life to come we may
be amazed at how much those prayers have accomplished.
We can either "do" this holy season, or we can learn to "be" in
this season. When the emphasis is on doing, obligations must be
fulfilled, standards must be met and life becomes more stressful
and difficult every year. Today, we were given an opportunity to
let go of believing we must make things happen.
Our Christmas cards are still only half done on the dining room
table. Packages must be mailed by tomorrow morning or they won't
get to our older son and daughter (both in California) before
Christmas. We still have things to do, but a measure of peace has
returned to this season, thanks to a storm, a lost crown and the
example of a good man.