best laid plans and hope for next year

DSC_0190So. Yesterday was a rough day.  For many reasons, mostly the type of reasons that anyone who cares for small children all day has a myriad of (Colds! Tantrums! Why are there legos in the toilet!).  But yesterday, more than anything, I felt overwhelmed.

Because yesterday I realized that it was the second day of Advent and there was a disconcerting lack of Advent-y things going on.  I was definitely, at some point, planning on having the kids make one of these adorable advent wreaths. I’m pretty sure a bible study or reflection series was on my to-do list.  And I can say that I most certainly (almost certainly?) was going to wrap up 25 Christmas-themed books for my kids to open each day until Christmas.  I bought little gifts to put in the kids’ shoes for St. Nicholas Day, but wait, did those get delivered?  And I really wanted to get this tradition or this one started for our family this year but it is looking less and less likely.DSC_0175

However, we did put up the Christmas tree last weekend.  And I’ve basically bought gifts for everyone on my list already (don’t ask me how this happened; I honestly don’t know.) And I’ve made some Christmas candy and we’ve finally found some non-obnoxious Christmas music to listen to (Nora Jones Christmas station on Pandora!).

But really, I had planned to purposefully focus on Advent this year, and wait to fully celebrate Christmas until the Christmas season actually began.  The goal was to instill in my children that this season is about peaceful, joyful waiting- that it’s a liturgical season onto itself.  To get in all those lessons that Advent and Christmas aren’t really about the presents or the tree or the food.

And here I am, and the only seasonal goals I’ve completed are, in no particular order: The Presents. The Tree. The Food.

Oy.

But today is a new day, and I’m starting to think maybe I’ve gotten it a little wrong. If I want to make Advent about joyful anticipation (and I do!), I have to let myself and my family prepare in our way.  I keep telling Joey that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday party.  So why shouldn’t I spend this time preparing the way I would for that party?  In our family, we prepare for a party by making lots of food, singing while we do it, and maybe buying a few heartfelt gifts for the person we’re celebrating. These little preparations aren’t the point of Christmas, but they do fill our hearts with excitement, anticipation, and joy.  And so maybe it’s ok that I didn’t order Christmas cards or find the perfect church outfit for the kids or have a craft to do each day.  Those just aren’t the things that fill us with joy.DSC_0151

My Advent will be imperfect because I’m imperfect.  Joy doesn’t require perfection.  I am not failing at Advent just because my kids are already talking about getting presents on Christmas.  That’s a concrete way for them to understand the excitement of the coming season.  They might not have made an advent wreath, but I bought some nice greens at trader joes, scraped the Halloween blood-candle wax off of some votives, plopped it on a $5 ikea tray, and voila, we have an advent wreath to light at dinner every night.  There isn’t  stack of wrapped books to open each day before Christmas, but I printed off this cute calendar yesterday and the kids kind of loved it. We didn’t get to Christmas cards this year, but we’ve spent a lot of time with people we love, and really reveled in being together. And now that I’m not stressing out about all the stuff I’m not doing (maybe next year! there’s always hope for next year!), I’m feeling much more peaceful and joyful. DSC_0179

On Discernment

On Discernment

Change is hard.  But you know what’s sometimes harder?  Making the decision to change.  To mindfully, purposefully, set your mind towards doing something different.  Because a decision to change most often also means taking a chance.  Which means we might just fail.  And if you’re like me, failure is scary.  We live in a world where our failures can come to define us.  Sure, our successes define us, too, but no one seems to remember our victories quite so well as our less-than-victories.

Why then, would we ever move out of the safety, the relative peace of the status-quo? For me, the answer is usually starts with a whisper.  A whisper in my ear that I’m doing well, but I can do better.  That I should do better.  My all-too-human response is, at time, “No, I couldn’t possibly.” Then the whisper quiets for a few days.  Then it come back, raising it’s voice just a bit.  Again, I beg off. By the time this whisper becomes a dull roar, I get really defensive and say once and for all, “No, really, I can’t.” And that, friends, is when God steps in and says, “Perfect.  I’ll do all the work. All you have to do is agree.” This is what discernment looks like for me.  It took me a while to figure out that was what’s happening.  After all, I wasn’t such a willing participant.  But the more I open my ears to God’s plan for me (however crazy it might seem), the easier I find this whole “life” business. Because if you’re really listening… you can’t fail.

And so here I am, writing a blog about faith, motherhood, marriage, poetry, food, and all the other things I thought I couldn’t really write about.