advent journal: incremental incarnation


I didn’t write yesterday because I didn’t sleep well the night before. On purpose.

As one who lives with sleep apnea, from time to time I have to take a sleep test, which means trying to sleep without my CPAP, affectionately known at our house as my Snuffleupagus Machine because it requires of me to wear a mask over my nose with a hose that attaches to a machine that blows a steady stream of air into my lungs.

Sleep apnea means I quit breathing over and over again durning the night. For any number of reasons, my airway shuts. The first time I went to “sleep camp,” as we called it, the technician told me I was sleeping in ninety-second increments. All my life I had thought I didn’t need much sleep, since resting for four hours didn’t feel much different than eight, when, in fact, I had never known what if felt like to feel rested. So, for the last fifteen years, I have been religious about putting on my Snuffy mask at bedtime.

The technology has advanced since my last test, because I didn’t have to go to camp; I did the test at home, wearing a monitor that recorded my sleep patterns. When I woke up, I took it back to them and they will set me up with a new machine that matches my needs in a couple of weeks. I was happy to put on the old one again last night.

Tonight we are having a Christmas Open House in our barn, between the two services. We have strung lights and turned on space heaters, and I have been baking cookies and other goodies to share with our church family. Since I am also marking the anniversary of my mother going into hospice at Christmas, I decided I would use her recipes for the open house. I have her recipe box—proof that I didn’t inherit her organizational skills. I chose a couple I remember her making and some that were new to me. I made some adaptations with a couple of the cookie recipes, based on ingredients I had on hand. Preparing for tonight has been meaningful, and emotional at times. Feeling connected to her today has not made her absence disappear, but, like my Snuffy machine, it has helped me to breathe, if you will, and lean into the memories. Into the everlasting arms.

When my father died, a friend who was more acquainted with grief said, “Don’t think about having to live forever without him. Chop up life into digestible chunks. Get through the next hour, and then get through the hour after that. Sometimes, you may be taking it fifteen minutes at a time.” The air from my CPAP lets me rest by catching my breath every ninety seconds and giving it back to me, over and over again, so that I can connect them into a restful night. I spent the day making cookies, one at a time, connecting a lifetime of memories with my mother.

Mary didn’t know that her baby boy would learn to walk on water. All she knew was she had walked step by step to Bethlehem, and now she and Joseph would take it day by day as their boy grew in wisdom and stature, as we used to say in Sunday School. She figured out how to live with her prayer, “Let it be as you said,” on a daily basis. When life seemed to shut down, I suppose, she leaned into the Spirit of God to breathe into her once more, that she might find life and find rest.

Maybe that’s stretching the metaphor, and, as I said a few posts ago, I continue to learn how to breathe in the breath of God and breathe out the love of God. One breath at a time. We will gather in our barn tonight, around my mother’s cookies, and then gather around the manger at church to be filled, I hope, with the breath of heaven once again.

Thanks for making the journey this Advent. I am richer for the companionship.

Christ is born. Alleluia. Merry Christmas.



  1. What a lovely way to honor your mother’s memory and include her in the celebration.
    This was the breath of air I needed tonight. Thank you!

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