One of the holiday traditions at my in-laws’ is the annual Rische Family Book Club. At Thanksgiving this year, inspired by our charming two-year-old nephew Colin, we all brought books we’d enjoyed as children. I remembered loving the Frog and Toad books as a kid, but I honestly couldn’t remember much about them.
So off I went to the library, feeling tall and rather foolish as I crouched beside the pint-sized bookshelves to find Frog and Toad Together. I read the first story planted right there on the carpet, instantly transported back several decades as I paged through the classic brown and green illustrations.
When I got to the end of the story, I grinned, remembering why I loved these books.
I am Toad.
The story “The List” is about a day in the life of Toad that sounds a lot like days I’ve had myself, minus the tweed jacket. When Toad wakes up in the morning, he realizes he has lots of things to do, so he decides to write everything down on a list.
On his list of things to do that day, he includes such important things as wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, play games with frog, and go to sleep. “There,” Toad says. “Now my day is all written down.” Then he goes about his day, relishing each time he gets to cross something off his list.
When Frog and Toad are taking a walk (item #5 on his list), a strong wind suddenly whisks the list out of Toad’s hand. Frog suggests that they run after it, but poor Toad, paralyzed with disbelief, says, “I cannot do that!” After all, running after his list was not one of the things he’d written down to do that day. Frog, ever the faithful friend, chases after the runaway paper but isn’t able to catch it.
“I cannot remember any of the things that were on my list of things to do,” Toad says. “I will just have to sit here and do nothing.” So Toad sits there and does nothing, and Frog sits beside him.
It is the second week of Advent: the candle of peace.
Somehow it doesn’t seem coincidental that we would have a sacred reminder about peace in the midst of one of the busiest week of the year. My typical approach is to wait until everything on my list is accomplished before I embrace peace, but it never works. The list, after all, is never all crossed out. It only gets longer as the days march toward December 25.
Do you really expect me to find peace in the midst of all this? I ask God. Can’t you make things settle down and then I can rest? But as I think about that first Christmas, I’m reminded that peace didn’t come because everything was calm and quiet, with each item ticked off the list. Joseph was trying to check into a hotel. Mary was trying to remember her Lamaze. The shepherds were pulling another night shift. The wise men were lugging gold across the Sahara. Not exactly a silent night.
So maybe what God is trying to tell us about peace is that we can’t wait for everything to be in place before we seize it. We have to actively carve out space for peace right in the middle of the chaos. And sometimes that means throwing out our to-do lists (or at least forgetting about them for a while).
So today I invite you to toss aside your lists—the gift list, the grocery list, the baking list—and let them blow away in the wind. Hear your friend Jesus say to you, “Sit here with me and do nothing.”
Sit in the glow of the Christmas lights or the flicker of the candlelight, and just be.
Be at peace. Be still. Be loved. Be.