I was not looking forward to taking my husband to the airport after Thanksgiving. He's working out of state for several months and only comes home for a few days each month. After a busy day of shopping and dinner with extended family, I took him for the dreaded drop-off. Bad traffic slowed us down, but eventually we made it to the airport and said rushed goodbyes.
My mind turned to the next three weeks. I would have to prepare for Christmas by myself, get the kids to all their activities, take care of the household and continue to work from home while my husband finished up a semester of teaching 2,500 miles away. I immediately felt overwhelmed.
My feelings of despair were compounded when I realized the freeway traffic had slowed to a crawl. An accident was causing a huge traffic jam. Signs prompted drivers to exit the freeway, but I wasn't familiar with the area. I felt concern for those involved, but selfishly wondered how long it would take me to pick up my kids from my sister and drive the 100 miles back to my house.
After throwing myself a pity party for a few minutes, I decided to turn on the radio and see if I could find something to occupy my mind and keep me awake. Soon, I tuned into a local radio station that was playing Christmas music.
Creeping along the freeway, trying to stay out of the path of truckers and merge past the accident, I listened to the songs while still thinking about my seemingly endless to-do list. Christmas cards, teacher gifts, homemade goodies, advent calendars. How was I going to summon energy and enthusiasm when I already felt so drained? Then, a song caught my attention.
The song was Amy Grant's "I Need a Silent Night." After the first verse described rushing about trying to fit too many activities into the season, the chorus touched me with its poignant message:
"I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night."
I listened to the song, made it through the traffic jam and drove home safely with those words ringing in my ears. That moment has changed my focus all season. Almost daily, I find myself humming the tune and thinking about the words. As a result, I've found time for silent pondering and deliberate enjoyment of the great parts of Christmas: time with family, giving gifts, the birth of the Savior and meaningful traditions.
Just like a chance encounter with a Christmas song during a traffic jam changed my attitude and outlook, inspiration can be found anywhere. My Christmas wish is that more of us can find a silent night this holiday season to ponder the things that are most important to us.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.