November is kind of a weird month, a waiting-heavy month. We anticipate the temperature plunges and the bracing ourselves against a cold rain as we head home from work in the dark. We watch for the final showers of leaves and wait for that brief pause of Thanksgiving before we more or less slingshot into the frenzy of December.
And to that we add our personal waits. The past few Novembers have brought different kinds of waiting for me. Four years ago, Joe and I had just started trying to get pregnant and had just failed for the first time. I hadn't had any expectation of first-try success, but it was weird and unexpectedly emotional to be disappointed about not being pregnant.
(The next month, I was pregnant.)
Three years ago Nate had been gone about three months. I put his "my first Thanksgiving" bib, part of a set I had received at a baby shower, on the plush pig that sat on the rocking chair in our nursery, wearing Nate's blue hat from the hospital. We had Joe's mom and stepdad up from southern Indiana for Thanksgiving so we wouldn't have to do any big family get-together. I skipped a good friend's baby shower.
Two Novembers ago, after trying and failing for most of the year to get pregnant, we did hormone fertility assistance for the first time. It failed. It was one of the most mentally and physically exhausting and discouraging times of my life.
(The next month, I got pregnant.)
Last November was our first with Colin, source of pure, humbling, awe-inspiring joy every day. (I am the luckiest mama, I tell him, because I get to be mama to him and to Nate.) A week before Thanksgiving I returned to work from maternity leave. Colin started daycare shortly after that. I'd like to think we handled both with aplomb, aside from the predictable getting-sick-within-a-week-of-daycare-starting.
This November...what? The "firsts" have passed. Our sweet, personality-filled newborn is a sweet, walking, screeching, personality-filled toddler. Joe and I aren't trying to conceive; I stopped nursing and ditched the prenatal/postnatal vitamins months ago; and after five years I am back to being happy not to be pregnant.
It's weird. We're in this different stage of life, and there's plenty of newness to navigate, but this November in our personal lives doesn't look so markedly different from last year's, as it did in each of the several years before that.
And yet it's still a month of waiting, of anticipating transitions, because November always is. As a person of Christian faith, I anticipate the start of Advent, the season of waiting that culminates on the eve of the day that Christians mark the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Waiting for a baby. Every year, waiting for a baby – waiting on the promise that a baby represents, the life-transforming potential of a baby.
And this year, with the innumerable delights of daily life with Colin unfolding against a backdrop of heartbreaking, infuriating, should-be-unfathomable events occurring on the national and global stages – and the wretched rhetoric that has accompanied these – I wait, hoping we as a country/society/humanity can claw back from the brink that in the darkest moments it can feel like we're on.
Sometimes I feel powerless about the wait or the outcome. I try to do small things that can maybe serve as a drop in the bucket for good. I get angry about the state of our discourse, the state of our politics, but I believe we're called to do better by *doing better.* And so I find that this year I have volunteered more than I have previously – not that that's any huge feat, unfortunately, but I am glad for the progress. I aim to do at least a little more next year.
I wait for a shift, not looking for God to intervene in national or global politics but trying to remember something I've been reminded of at my church this year: God said, "See, I am making all things new."
For all of the discouragements, I see hope and promise in the breathtaking beauty of nature, in small acts of generosity, forgiveness and love. And I reflect on the promise of the Christmas story and the occasion every year at this time to recognize and be humbled by the life-transforming potential of humble, uncomplicated, unconditional love. "A thrill of hope/the weary world rejoices/For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn," as my favorite Christmas carol, "O Holy Night," goes.
There is potential and promise for newness tomorrow, and I think that with hope and faith in that, we can be inspired to act for good, to love with fewer filters and to do the things we know we can do in service of the kind of better world we want to be a part of. I'll pray, then, that we might work to renew our hope and hold to it and recognize as people of belief that a loving God is working to make all things (including us) new.