Form your conscience in advance of the November election, with help from Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde.
Time to stop and pray
Elizabeth Foss

I trip over the dog as I get out of bed and I land on a Lego. To my credit, I utter not a sound, lest I wake the baby. I shiver in the cold and make my way to the kitchen. Flipping on the light, I survey the remains of some teenaged boy's midnight foraging. A long sigh escapes my lips. Just days until Christmas and so very much to do. I drop two milk chocolate kisses and one candy cane kiss into the bottom of my coffee cup. That will do it, I am sure. Strength for the day. Except that I forget to put the coffee in the pot, and now hot water is melting the candy at the bottom of my cup. Back up. Start over. With coffee this time.

I light a candle, grab In Conversation with God: Advent and Christmas and settle into my chair. There are 3-year-old footsteps on the stairs. Within seconds she's in my lap, all warm and soft from sleep and breathing morning breath in my face as she begs to hear the Grinch for the 59th time. And she wants it like Daddy does it, with the silly voices and all. Indeed. Daddy is several hundred miles away, asleep in a warm, tidy hotel room, no doubt. It's easy to see there's no escaping this without risking loud protests that would wake the baby, or the eight other people asleep here. We get a blanket, hunker down and pay homage to Seuss.

By book's end, my kitchen is crowded with hungry children and my day is well underway. I blow out the candle, leave the devotional, and lurch headlong into the day. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the Advent wreath — the pink candle taunting me with its importance. So much to do! So much to do!

Every place I turn it seems, I am met with obstacles. A load of laundry damp and stinking accuses me from the washer. Yes! I want to shout back. Yes, I forgot you. Get over it. Get clean. I'm doing the best I can. The phone rings. My children have been instructed only to hand me the phone if it is one of a very few people today. They hand me the phone. It's one of those people. I tell her about my list, the million things that call to me, the major home renovation put on hold with my house in a state of neither here nor there. The book deadline looming large at the end of the month. How can I possibly make all this happen? Any of this happen?

She asks about my devotional time. I tell her about the kisses, the hot water, the Grinch. I laugh. She doesn't.

"You need to stop and pray. And you need to do it with your kids right now, so that they, too, become channels of grace."

Something in her tone tells me to hang up and do whatever she tells me. I gather the gang and I explain the importance. We pray.

Peace settles, heavy in the air. Children scatter to tidy their own corners of the house. A call is made and the eldest child is glad to escape his world of papers and exams and be the hero who puts up the Christmas tree. Ornaments are pulled from the boxes, lifted lovingly from beds of tissue. We stop and look at dates and remember sentiments.

"Here's the oldest ornament of all. It says 'Our First Christmas 1987' What did your tree look like that year? What did you buy for Daddy?"

"Yes, Marybeth, Aunt Michele bought you three ‘Baby's First Christmas’ ornaments — we were all overjoyed to buy all things pink that year!"

"Gracious! We have a lot of soccer balls to hang on our tree, don't we? And nutcrackers and ballet shoes..."

"Oh, look a kangaroo! This one is Sarah Annie's! A reader sent it to Mom so she'd always remember the Christmas that Sarah spent tight against Mom chest, fresh from the NICU."

As if I could forget any of it. But I do, sometimes, don't I? There it is, all aglow in the reflection of the sunroom windows, a breathtaking reminder of all the pieces of my life, all the occasions of generous grace.

Tree trimmed, Michael settles in with his little brothers to watch the NCAA soccer tournament. I head to the kitchen with my headset. As I make dinner, I hash out the final details of two new books with my co-author. She is typing furiously at her desk in New Hampshire. I am mashing potatoes. Just as we finish — finish these books! — dinner is ready. The Advent wreath sits in the middle of the table. Karoline sings, "Light one candle for peace..." and somehow that wreath doesn't look nearly as threatening as it did this morning. I search my memory. When was it that this day turned around again?


When we stopped to pray. Yes, indeed. Light one candle for peace. The hope and joy and love are soon to follow.

Foss is a freelance writer from Northern Virginia. Her Web site is


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