Our house is back to a household of 4.

Paige returned to Lexington, and we’re all glad she took the extra few days off. We had her here for a week, and she’ll be back for winter break in just three more.

Mom and Dad returned to Chicagoland on Friday, six weeks after the day they arrived. I feel so weird about it. The days they were here were so helpful, so great for the kids, so comforting, and then toward the end, I guess a little tense, as we silently acknowledged that they weren’t staying forever like I’d hoped. Even so, I had so looked forward to them being here, and now it’s come and gone, and it already feels like it was a dream.

We had a really nice Thanksgiving week. It’s like an extra gift that Miranda’s birthday falls the same week. Each day was filled with baking and company, phone calls and presents, decorations and music. And it was in the 70s and sunny outside every day. Bliss.

But now the house is emptier. The holiday season stretches out before us without a lot of plans. We won’t be returning to Chicago for a visit (3 visits from August-October kind of maxed us out for the year). Other than one or two bonus days with some special friends, no one is coming here for a visit. We’re not involved in any concerts or cantatas or projects or cookie exchanges or party-hosting.

Enjoy it? Yes. That’s what we should do. Until things pick up at work, there are hours stretched before me to perform holiday tasks at a leisurely pace. Bake treats for random people. Write personal messages on the Christmas cards. Be intentional in giving gifts, rather than just checking off the names. Catch up voice-to-voice. Maybe find a nursing home and bring the girls there to pass out treats or cards or songs.

And there are the daily things, things neglected or doled out like delicacies for so long, that there is time to do. Take the girls to the beach after school (tomorrow’s plan). Clean the house but good (Tuesday’s plan). Pray longer. Carry on the conversation over a second cup. Exercise extra. Read. Write.

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There will be a day when this season, this quiet season, ends.

There will be a time when this current life, punctuated with activity and obligation and business rather than driven by it, will halt for a new season. There will be a Sunday night not long from now when I will have no problem feeling purposed (as I have tonight), no room to feel lonely (as I do tonight), and no open space on my calendar (which is full of blanks tonight). I will look back on tonight, Thanksgiving Sunday 2011, the day after a very successful, suspended-reality, worry-free week, and wish I had more fully appreciated the naps, the soup-making, the movie-watching, the doing of nothing.

So tonight, I’m asking God for something very selfish. Help me to cherish this time, even in my anxiety, even in my discomfort. Help me to find music in the silence and joy in the discovery. Help me to focus on what we have and what we know, rather than what we’re waiting for and what is unknown.

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