I woke up this morning to the sound of our last turkey gobbling. He seems to still be looking for his friends, the ones we ate for Thanksgiving. Our daughter climbed up into bed with us for some snuggle time. I got up, ate breakfast, and checked email before going to the doctor. The seminary where I teach doesn’t have classes on Mondays, so my part-time role this term feels even less than part-time.

Today I am thirty-six weeks pregnant. When I arrived at the doctor, the receptionist asked me if I was pregnant. Really?! (If you could see how huge I am right now, you would shake your head in disbelief, too). I got to see our son during an ultrasound, and with his due date of December 25, I have been feeling quite a connection to Mary. I was feeling sorry for myself having to walk up forty stairs to my doctor’s office on the third floor of a building that has no elevators. How on earth did she ride a donkey all the way to Bethlehem?! I’ve been worrying about the hospital where I’ll deliver; Mary gave birth in a stable with animals.

As Advent approaches, the waiting and anticipation of the birth of a child has special meaning to me. In many ways, it parallels what has seemed to be my ministry these past years here in the Philippines . . . humbling and simple.

I’m in a culture that values relationships more than time, and people more than efficiency. It is  the greatest thing about this country. It is the thing that drives us the most crazy about this country. Coming here from the madness of life in Atlanta was a shock. All the sudden, I was not busy all the time. I was not sitting in traffic for two hours a day. At first it was nice. Then I had to figure out how to define my success and value apart for an extensive to-do list. I can no longer define the success of my day by how many tasks I completed. My value is no longer based on my accomplishments.

I haven’t eaten a meal in the car in over two years. I snuggle with our daughter a few minutes longer in the mornings, because I know there’s a limited time she’ll want to snuggle with me. I read lots of books. I feel value when I connect with people. I have time to talk with and care for my students.

Women have been having babies for thousands of years, and few of them delivered in a big clean hospital. Our three-year-old daughter was born in Atlanta, and with baby super stores and registries, child-birth classes and birth plans, I made her birth another thing to accomplish and accomplish well. That stuff doesn’t exist here. Sure, I have found the nicest private hospital in town and the best doctor. I will deliver in a nice, new delivery room and recover in a private room. But Mary had Jesus in a barn. I am sure she didn’t have forty-eight different bottles to choose from. Jesus did not blog or plan conferences. I can’t imagine him keeping planner and scheduling events months ahead of time. His ministry was simple.

Today I enjoyed my seemingly simple life. I saw our unborn son on a computer screen, finished Christmas shopping, crocheted, ate lunch outside, and enjoyed my family and relationships. No, I don’t “accomplish” as much as I did working and living in Atlanta, but I’ve never been so certain I’m where I am supposed to be. And Mary is my hero for riding on that donkey!

Cindy Clark is a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel, serving in Baguio City. She teaches at the Philippine Baptist Theological Seminary.