“belle” the ornament read.
I twirled around the bulb with my fingers to see the other side: Andrea, it read.
I was at Advent by Candlelight, a Friday night churchy thing. And I suppose I was there to be spiritually fed, but let’s be honest, it was all about the promised desserts; specifically, the buckeyes. Buckeyes are a kiss from heaven, I’m so sure of it.
Earlier in the evening, while they passed around the desserts, they asked us to also head up and write our names on a bulb and hang it on the Christmas tree. I had used this moment as an opportune time to make my route to the tree to include a last ditch effort to pass the dessert table in hopes a random buckeye had survived the mobbing and would possibly lie there for the preying. (shit! All gone.) With a bit of a mope in my step, I continued on to the tree, I wrote my name as prettily as I could – which was mostly sideways and scribbly and at a slant. But I tried. And momma taught me to always just do my best; however, shitty the outcome.
The guest speaker spoke. It was lovely. And inspiring. And then as the evening came to a close, they did something magically – they invited us up to come up and pick one of those ornaments we had signed our little names on. To hang the name of someone in our home and to cover them in prayer this Advent.
So up I went. And it was tough. I stood there, looking at all the possible ornaments to take. How do you know? How do you pick that special person you’re going to invite into your home and make your home their home? That’s seriously beautiful stuff right there and I wanted a sign. I wanted to know WHO I was supposed to invite into my home for Christmas.
I read each name, waiting for a prompting.
But then there it was: “Belle”
And added to “Belle” was the word beauty.
My daughter’s name is Bella. And I call her Bell (I write it without the “e” but I mean, close enough, right? I wasn't getting any other voodoo signs coming at me!) And Bell, well she is my bella; my beauty.
It quickly became a scavenger hunt to find Andrea to find the mystery of why I had picked her bulb (and by that I mean, I was the ONLY person looking for my bulb incarnate!). Turns out, at her table they had each written their name on the bulb and passed it to their right. It was her friend that had actually written the word “belle.” And it only took but a glimpse to know why her friend would write these words. As I knelt beside Andrea, like one might kneel before a manger, I told her my whole story in a 30 second snapshot. And she was so gracious. She was kind. Her face radiating beauty and compassion. She created so much space for my little hunched up body and heart.
I don’t know why? I confessed, I don’t know why I’m supposed to pray for you. We may never know until the other side of glory. But there’s a reason, I said; my finger pointing at her like I had just picked her for my team and my hurt bursting with the possibility of it all - at this point I was standing and about to carry on my way.
But it was then, with sparkles in her eyes, that she said:
WELL I’M GOING TO PRAY FOR YOU. I AM DOING A NOVENA RIGHT NOW. IT IS THE “MARY UNDOER OF KNOTS” NOVENA.
Dammit, of course. And Amen. Undoer of Knots. That was it. The moment Andrea spoke these words, my heart instantly identified the knots this year has tangled up for me. And it was an instant peace upon my soul to know these knots were being tended to. Having for so long left the knots to only knarl up more, completely unaware of how to undo them myself - it was easier to leave them knotted up in one BIG UGLY WOD. But I knew this was exactly what God had wanted my heart to hear this night – that he desired to bless me with the undoing of my knots. And he was going to use the image of mothering to do it.
I immediately pictured a woman, just as beautiful as Andrea, sitting, and with such grace and poise - unraveling the ribbon of my soul. The knots being not of frustration or tension to her; rather, like a mother kindly brushes knots out of her daughter’s hair as she sits at her feet. So tender. So soft and sweet to the touch. Her only desire that of to bless and tend.
A mother’s touch is something beautiful. Is it not?
I confess... Mary, the mother of God. I didn’t like her much growing up.
Why her? I always thought. I think I always thought of her as someone so holy, perfect and unattainable. She was probably just like all the other religious folks, I know. Probably had no idea what broken felt like. She probably just eased her way through this earth, I mean the favor of God upon her, right? How hard could it all have been, REALLY.
I know, I should probably spend some more time with Mary. The Mary before she became a mother. I think she and I would be friends. I think we’d get each other – the parts of life not going quiiiiiite as we planned.
But as a mother now. I’m slowly learning so much about the word mother, and one definition of mother, when used as a verb, is to: bring up with care and affection.
And Mary brought up the Savior of the World so… YOU WIN, Mary. And this advent, as I seek the manger, I get it. I see why Mary is so important to the nativity story.
But also, you take that definition and well, my mom is pretty incredible. She taught me everything I know about peace and patience and kindness and love and serving.
And my mom, she was a gift wrapper at a store growing up so every year, she lovingly places beautifully wrapped gifts under our tree. And she has tried for years AND YEARS to teach me this family trade but I’m still learning her patience and I get super pissed at the paper and my presents always end up looking like gifted wods of nonsense. The more tape the merrier, I say! Make ‘em work for that gift, am-I-right?
But… a present, a gift.... well it is laced up with a ribbon, usually secured with some sort of a knot. And it all makes perfect sense now. This Advent, I am waiting. I am patiently sitting at the feet of Mary, as she unravels my knots. And it is with such great anticipation that I watch for the gift to be revealed and unveiled.
Here I thought I was inviting Andrea into my home for Christmas, but it was she who would invite me into her heart and make me a home. It was her honor to pick me up and hold me. It was with complete humility and honor that I was to be the one so blessed to pick Andrea’s golden bulb.
And it is with great love and affection that I say to you: this advent, may all your knots be ever so lovingly and beautifully undone.