A FRIDAY MEDITATION – It’s still Advent

 

There’s a voice in the wilderness crying, a call from the ways untrod:

Prepare in the desert a highway, a highway for our God!

The valleys shall be exalted, the lofty hills brought low;

make straight all the crooked places where the Lord our God may go!

~ THE HYMNAL 1982

This past year has gone way too fast. Faster than any year that I can remember.  Of course, I have been sick since August and didn’t feel very well for the first part of the year.  I was sick then, but I didn’t know it as I had not been diagnosed.  Being sick has taken up a lot of my time and energy. I travel through time much slower than I am accustomed to travel. I’m even trying to draft my writing on a yellow pad rather than my computer. It’s slower and will, maybe, help with my concentration. I’ll see.

We are mostly through the first week of Advent, the beginning of the Church year, and rapidly approaching Christmas. Most people have finished their decorating.  Parties are taking place. We frantically try to keep up with it all – the shopping, wrapping, finish decorating, meal planning, baking, cooking, cleaning, choir and pageant practice, etc.  The world is already celebrating Christmas while the Church is preparing for the royal birth.  Preparing is what Advent is about. And, it’s true, all that shopping, wrapping, etc., has become part of it for many of us. We’re preparing, aren’t we? Maybe or maybe not.

For me, it would be “not”.  I would just get it all done, and Christmas would be over.  What is it I was preparing for?  Has the prep time just been more chores piled on top of my regular routine?  I don’t believe the season is supposed to be like that. Did I – did we ever slow down enough to feel the excitement of Jesus’ coming into the world.  Did we take time to prepare for him?  Did we ever sit like Mary and ponder what this all means to us? All of the busy work and my soul begins to feel empty.

 

Many years ago, I don’t remember when it began, I decided Advent was going to be different.  I wanted to slow down my preparations and take time to enjoy the season. On the first Sunday of Advent, we put up the tree.  Our trees have grown in a factory for many seasons rather than in a forest or tree farm. No theological reason for that.  I’m just allergic to evergreens when I touch them.  Anyway, our tree is up now.  It’s not decorated because I start that the second week of Advent. It did, however, grow with lights already on it which I would have put on the second Sunday. The decorating of the tree and of the house will be finished on Christmas Eve. 

 

My Advent candles are out, of course, and we light them every evening.  Tomorrow, I’ll dig out the nativity set. I’ll set out the manger, empty of course, except for a turtle, a Cursillo chicken, and a few farm animals.  I would put out the spider, so it could decorate with its webs, but it is bigger that the baby Jesus, so I decided against it. The shepherd is out on the hills watching the sheep and the Magi are far, far away. On Christmas Eve during the day, Mary and Joseph arrive.  Jesus is in a small covered dish on the shelf below the nativity set.  He will arrive in the manger after Christmas Eve Mass and the shepherd and other animals will move in to adore him. The angel that has followed Mary and Joseph is now in the barn with them.

 

I bake very little anymore, because trust me, I would eat most of it.  After losing 60 pounds almost ten years ago, I decided to bake all those cookies was not in my best interest. As for Christmas gifts, it is possible some of them might show up on Epiphany.  That is when Jesus received some of his so it’s traditional. I love how we have been doing our decorating and all the rest of our preparations.  It isn’t so hectic, and it gives me time to ponder. I have time to prepare my spirit for the coming of the Lord anew in me. What new thing is he trying to show to me? How is he trying to transform me? Maybe he is just enjoying me spending time with him. I’m enjoying it. It helps me stay in the moment.  It helps me listen. And I do not miss all the craziness.

 This year, as I do most of them, I start Advent by attending a Quiet Day at our Church.  Fr. Jack told us the day was for us to be able to have a renewing encounter with God, and he gave us questions to ponder to help us.  I plan to use them in my quiet time each day and by Christmas, I hope to have some of the answers.  Perhaps I will share some with you.

 

 So, if you haven’t finished all your preparations for Christmas, remember that Christmas doesn’t start until December 25. You still have time.  Take some of that time for a renewing encounter with God.  You can be refreshed rather than frazzled when you get to Christmas Day. And have a Merry and blessed Christmas.

 

Grace and Peace,

Donna

 

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A FRIDAY MEDITATION – Four letter words and stuff

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. ~ Proverbs 16:9

Moving is a four letter word. I am trying to get rid of some excess stuff in order to simplify my life, and seriously…..am I really going to do anything with this pile of fabric that has sat on the same shelf in the exact same spot since I moved here eight years ago?  And since it came with me, the shelf it probably sat on for at least 5 years before that.  Most likely the answer is “No.” So why keep it?  It’s not that decorative.  My daughter-in-law and granddaughter might want some. Then how about that huge container of left over yarn? Uh…

There are two boxes of books from a book club obtained when I neglected to send back the card to say that I didn’t want the book?  I haven’t read them and I don’t want to read them.  What’s more, I finally came to that conclusion.  They are practically brand new except they may be 20 years old. Well, I love books but really – give them to the library.  They love books too.

How did I get so pack rat like?  I don’t know.  But wait – didn’t my siblings just clean out my mom’s house while I watched, because the floor was so full of stuff that I couldn’t keep my balance without light. The lamps had gone in an estate sale. I did come home with very little—a keepsake or two, something for the kids and a couple of grandkids who wanted one.  But, I did bring home pile upon pile of photos and historical documents for the amateur genealogist in me. Sigh.

I’m getting rid of furniture that I do not like or that is not comfortable.  William Morris an English textile designer said “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” One or the other.  Maybe both. My husband wonders…but he’s both. What about the stuff I love?  If I really love it, I’ll keep it, but my “loves” are changing.  I feel transformation happening within. I want more space and less stuffed closets. It is a good Lenten spiritual exercise to sort and get rid of things that are no longer useful, or that do not make you happy and peaceful, in order to make space in your home and in your spirit. I saw a suggestion to give away one thing out of your closet for each day in Lent and I have more than met expectations in this, but there is still more that can go. I already feel freer and lighter with more room for God.

Why am I writing when I’m up over my ears in boxes and we’re not finished packing? When the moving van will come on Wednesday and I don’t have a home to put the stuff in I did keep? Well, because it’s what I do…There is a light at the end of the tunnel and I don’t think it’s a train.  Any day now, we will know if the only door for housing that has not been slammed in our face, before we even have a chance to go for a looky-loo, is the one which God will tell us to go through and unpack. This, also, is a Lenten exercise in trust and patience for sure.

Lead me Lord, lead me by your Spirit.  Make your will clear for my future.  For it is you Lord, you the wounded healer, who makes my heart sing and my feet dance for joy.  Fill me Lord, fill me with your Spirit ~ Spirit of love, Spirit of joy and peace. Be my rock, be my rock of refuge, of courage and strength for my journey. ~ Finians’s Readings, Celtic Daily Prayer