We are in the thick of my favorite quarter. Anyone else operate on a Q4 mindset? #corporateworklife, am I right? Q4 is my favorite of the whole year. From October 1 til January 2, I am running on full-steam autumn and holiday joy, leaving a pumpkin-spice-scented trail behind me.
Two of my kids have Q4 birthdays — November and December, and my own birthday is in October. We have the start of fall sports and classes, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and of course, Christmas. There are football games, church events, trunk or treats, and holiday parties. We visit the apple orchard, the pumpkin patch, and school conferences. There are band concerts, church pageants, birthday parties, and family gatherings galore. We usually schedule our family photos when the leaves are in peak color. We take the kids Christmas shopping for each other and check our own lists twice. We bake cookies, shop for turkeys and side dish ingredients, and decorate several times for all the major holidays.
And of course, there are the everyday, regular, ordinary time-fillers. Homework. Grocery shopping. Doctor appointments. Dinner. Dishes. Walking the dog. Driving kids around. Matching socks and switching laundry loads. Going to church, making lunches, raking leaves. Checking in on our parents. Calling our kids. Paying bills and cleaning crumbs.
Last week I sat beside my son in a church pew during worship. He whispered, “I memorized all of those words,” motioning to the stained glass windows next to us that spelled out the church year seasons under each picture. “Advent, Christmas, Time after Epiphany, Lent, The Three Days, Easter.”
“That’s right!” I whispered back. “And then you know what’s next? It’s called Ordinary Time. From after Easter till Advent.”
“Wow, that’s a lot of Ordinary Time,” he replied.
And he is correct.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all of the ordinary time. It’s always in my face and messing with the special memory-making I would rather be doing. Like I’m never going to choose washing dishes over driving around to look at Christmas lights. And yet, when we pull in the garage late at night, sugared up from cocoa and joy, the dishes await.
So how does one stay present during both the Q4 joy extravaganza and the quiet gifts of ordinary time?
As with most things, we look to Jesus.
Jesus was so, so good at being fully present. When He visited friends and family. When He preached to the masses. When He interacted quietly with widows, bleeding women, and tax collectors. They all had His full attention. . . even when dinner was required.
In Matthew, we read about Jesus trying to escape for a break, but He’s found, and found by a ton of people. He has compassion on the crowds, heals their sick, and then (as it sneaks up on me each and every day) it’s dinnertime before they know it.
The glory of the regular, all mixed up with the holy.
The disciples want to send everyone away to find their own dinner on their own dime and let Jesus get back on schedule. But Jesus. He tells the disciples to feed all the people! And it was a whole thing to do that, because thousands had gathered, and there was definitely not enough food.
I mean, I’ve been there too. During one Q4 birthday party I was hosting for my son, my sister-in-law ran to the store mid-party for additional chickens, because bless my heart, I had never roasted whole chickens before and I hadn’t gotten enough for the full group. (My son requested ‘whole chickens’ for his birthday meal. I don’t know.)
So the people gathered around Jesus don’t have food, and they’re getting hangry. Jesus pulls out a miracle, taking a boy’s offering of five loaves of bread and two fish, and somehow multiplies it so that “all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (Matthew 14).
And all the while, Jesus was present. Fully in the setting, fully with the people.
Really, are we even in the season of gratitude and joy if we don’t run into a snag at some point in our plans? Is it even Q4 if we aren’t going through some situation that we fear will take a miracle to get out of? Don’t we all wish we could delegate the menial tasks and let the people fend for themselves so our attention isn’t divided?
Yet, we see Jesus. Jesus shows us how to stay present with the people, immersed in the setting, feeling the depth of all the feelings, and feeding those around him.
Jesus is all in, wherever He is, whomever He’s with. And you know what happens with those around Him? They do the same. They hold both their ordinary lives with the glory of His presence.
We can live in the extraordinary joy that the festivities and bustle Q4 brings, and we can experience glory in the regular tasks that make up our days. We can hold both. We were made to hold both.
We’re in it right now. Let’s live in it deep.