Friday, December 24, 2010

Marcus Aurelius, England and The Weight In My Stomach: Reflections on the Last Night in Advent

"Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart." - Marcus Aurelius

I hear Marcus Aurelius' words as I drive with my dad to Tendercrop Farm in search of a Christmas turkey. We've been a RBYP (Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding) family for years, but this Christmas we are cooking a turkey with roasted vegetables and stuffing. As we drive through the back roads of New England, the wind whistling along beside the car, and the runners in their crisp white sneakers and sleek black leggings moving like lemmings in the rear view mirror. I am overcome with a longing to be in England.

England. The land of moors and craggy hills, of hedgerows and sheep. England. The stone house, the tea, the fireplace, the River Cary where I played Pooh sticks with my father as a little girl in my wellies and floral skirts. I think the word England and my mind immediately leaps to car rides through small towns as Dad and I talk about my dreams of being a full-time author, living in my own English cottage, owning three Welsh corgis and having four children. And as I drive with Dad through stop signs and past Christmas decorations, my stomach fills with the weight of this place:

And I can remember the home, and I feel it drop into the pit of my stomach, because I know that I am so very far from this home this Christmas, so very far and yet not far at all. If there is something that my mind and heart cannot stop thinking about it is this idea of being "home." It is the weight in your stomach of places like these: 

(photo credit for this one: Hannah Cochran/Sam Bender)
And people like these: 

And Marcus Aurelius is right, I whisper to myself as I miss my homes in England and Washington. Do so with all your heart. Do so with all your heart. Today, my friends and family, those of you I have just begun to know and those of you who have been in my heart for years and years - today I feel the weight in my stomach of missing you and rejoicing over you. Christmas is the arrival of our truest and best home. Advent, this season of waiting for the Lord, has culminated in this night, and His birth. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! All of my heart I want to bring to the manger tonight - my heart brimming with these people, these places, my heart full of longings and joys and sorrows. We sing, "What can I give him, poor as I am?" in In the Bleak Midwinter. Bring your longings to Him tonight. Bring him your whole heart, all filled up with messiness and love. Marcus Aurelius is right - we must love and accept what is before us, living fully in our New England marshes, our English moorlands, our DC city blocks, our Pennsylvania hills or our California rainstorms. Love fully the place where you are: and know that you bring that love to Jesus in the manger tonight. This is who I hope to bring tonight (thank you, Mandie Sodoma, for capturing me so beautifully): 

Love this Christmas, in Him. 


  1. Yet another beautiful post... Thank you for loving with all your heart! Merry Christmas, my dear.

  2. Hannah - it was so wonderful to find you here on my blog! Know that I treasure the pictures you sent me - they are going to be framed and put up in my room at Gordon! Merry Christmas, love!


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