A long time ago (at least that's how it feels now) I lived, worked and went to school in Germany. Though I 'knew' the language before leaving the States, swimming in the sea of day to day usage was another universe. About a month after moving there, I realized I wasn't translating everything into English in my head. I could ask for directions and understand the native answer. I could read signs and go grocery shopping, I even started to dream in German.
I have been feeling harried and overwhelmed lately with a too-long to-do list that seems just as eternal at sunset as it was at dawn. Stumbling to the tea pot before the sky even begins to lighten, my half-wake prayer is something along the lines of "God, I know Your strength is enough to get me through today. Please bless me with the strength to at least make a dent in the list of things that must.be.done." What wears me out about this long list is that I can't seem to experience any joy in the present because I'm too busy concentrating on the myriad of other things stacking up in the future.
I was busy pondering all my busyness and going over my mental list on the way to town the other day. A long, winding, country road, with no cell signal for 10 miles. I lay my list aside for a moment to listen to Carols. A familiar tune began and I turned it up. I listened carefully, knowing the song and not in the distracted, just-humming-along kind of way.
I know the words... O tannenbaum, O tannenbaum...well, not Bestandigkeit. I feel it start: a genuine smile, curling at the edges of my lips, reaching all the way to the end of my to-do list. I can feel this smile, I know this joy. I am present with the music, I am thrilled there is still some German tucked in the eaves of my brain. Just as I am busy recalling the meaning of Zeit, lehren and Weinachtzeit it all comes back to me.
What I am recalling is what I should have been praying for all along. Not strength. Not a list that I can some how get to the end of by Christmas Eve. Joy. The ability to look beyond my list, see the colorful lights surrounding me, giving me reasons to smile all the way to Christmas...
My reminder happened to come in German - how is yours disguised?