I must confess, I get swept up in the holiday season and not always in the best of ways. My love of autumn, as I’ve written about previously, gives way to the post Thanksgiving checklists and the busy nature of the Advent/Christmas/New Year’s season. Decorating for Christmas, shopping for presents, baking cookies, planning dinners, and trying to avoid the bad weather are many of the things that start to weigh on me, and I often push aside the real meaning for this whole season. But this year, I am hoping to be more mindful of Advent, the coming of Jesus.
Spirituality, I plan to continue with my beautiful daily refections in my faith reading from In Conversation with God by Fr. Francis Fernandez-Carvajal. Even though I’ve reread these volumes for quite a few years I always manage to glean something new and insightful from them, quite possibly because of the different set of circumstances I am in from when I previously read these meditations and, therefore, I am more disposed to hearing the message needed at the present time. The Advent reflections in Volume One are my most favorite and seem to help me ponder in my heart the beauty of this holy season.
I also decided I would participate in the “Best Advent Ever” program through the Dynamic Catholic Institute. Beginning on the first Sunday of Advent, it is described as a daily email with “short inspirational videos from Matthew Kelly and Dr. Allen Hunt, practical tips to incorporate into your everyday life, and personal stories from Dynamic Catholic team members.” I hope I can really listen and reflect on the messages presented in the videos.
When I was teaching religion class to my sixth graders this Sunday we were discussing Advent and how it is a time of joyful waiting. Those two words together, “joyful” and “waiting,” seem like an oxymoron because there’s nothing about waiting that is joyful for me. I tend to be on the impatient side as my husband will confirm. Advent is also a ‘Little Lent” for all of us and this would be a perfect sacrifice for me this Advent, that when I am in situations that require me to be patient, I should wait in a spirit of joyfulness instead of anger, annoyance, and irritation. I’ll let you know how successful I am, but prayers would help.
Getting stressed out during the holidays is usually a slippery slope for me, as I start to neglect the spiritual side of the season. I don’t like being under pressure while I shop and if I wait too long or don’t know what I what to purchase, I do a bad job with the shopping. To take some pressure off I actually ask my loved ones for gift ideas. Many websites now allow shoppers to create a “wish list” and it’s been great getting ideas from my kids for both themselves and the grandchildren. However, my son still likes the element of surprise and rarely gives me any gift ideas, yet he has the uncanny ability to guess exactly what’s inside each of his wrapped presents every year.
Another way I’m taking some of the stress out of the holidays is referencing my ‘Remembrance Book.’ In a colorful notebook I purchased I started writing down important things I wanted to remember over the years – past gifts given, dinners hosted, things of note that allow me not to repeat menus, give similar gifts, or replicate any disasters from the past. It used to bother me that I could not remember what I had given as a gift before or made for a special meal. It’s been extremely helpful to reference my notes as I think about what direction I’d like to head for gifts and holiday dinners. I’ve organized it by month and I simply write about the special event that happened, dishes I prepared, and any pertinent details that would help me in the future. So this year, as I look over last year’s Christmas entry, I know that I will need to avoid making too many appetizers and to start making the main dinner dish an hour sooner if I expect to be dressed for company in time for their arrival.
Over the years I’ve tried very hard to reduce the number of totes containing Christmas decorations while keeping only the items I truly want to have in my home. Being an elementary school teacher in the past, I received enough ornaments each Christmas to decorate at least three trees. At one point I must have had a dozen totes and boxes of Christmas stuff, but now I only have about six totes and if I can only stop myself from buying more snowmen I will be able to keep to that exact number of totes. This week I plan to tackle the decorating and will be able to check that chore off the list.
I hope I will be able to keep spirits high and stress low this Advent. I hope you, too, will have an Advent filled with many graces and blessings. What are you doing to prepare for the coming of Jesus this Christmas?