“Let’s write words in the snow, Elsegirl,” I told my seven-year old daughter, after she had pulled me out to play in the 9° Sioux Falls nippiness yesterday afternoon.

“O.K.!” she said.

Then, “Mama, if Santa really can fly, I think it must be because of the snow.  The snow must be magic.”

“I am sure you are right, Sweet One,” I replied, not really sure where this was going but, knowing Else, really sure we were off to somewhere.

I trudged up our tiny hill on the east side of the house, the only part of our yard untainted by the tracks of our obnoxious dog.

Emphasis on the ‘noxious.’

Behind me, I heard her continue.

“And if the snow is magic, Mama, maybe if we write a message in it, it will come true.”

“Well, Baby One,” I said, on alert now, “what sort of message do you have in mind?”

“Mama, maybe if we write a message about Karl learning to walk and talk again, he will get all better.  Can we try it?”

Deep sigh.

“Oh, Little Girl…why not.”

And so we did.

Mama in front for the first swath through, Else following close behind, smoothing the gaps between the lift from my right foot to my left.  Blue and brown, magenta and pink, arcing each letter across the white cold.



It could have been a somber work, but it wasn’t.  We laughed as we leapt from letter to letter, spelling out our words with spills and the chills of the snow getting into our boots.

Joyful defiance in the guise of Mama-daughter play, protest and prayer threaded though our snow, a palimpsest upon which a new reality is rebelliously written over the old.

I’m a Lutheran, and we Lutherans love the tension of saint/sinner; law/gospel; already/not yet.

This is the season, this Advent season, of the already/not yet.

I am fully aware of the not yet.

But yesterday Else helped me enact a bit of the already.

Already we know that things ought to be other than they are.

Already we know that we can object.

Already we know that there are glimpses of new beginnings.

Already we know that there is power in joyful defiance.

Already we know that change need not spring from hostile anger.

Already we know that we can find hope in a seven-year old girl with cheeks chilled the color of her thick, pink, snowpants.