I May Be the Only One

I’m probably the only one who experiences Advent this way, so don’t feel like you need to read on today.

Because it’s probably just me.

I feel like I am the only one, at least.

The only one who, despite all my God-and-Jesus loving talk the rest of the year, finds myself year after year during Advent in a very dark place.   All the JOY of the season that I want to feel, all the LOVE and PEACE and CALM that I pray for everyone else?  I can’t find it myself.  I barely even know how.  I can’t seem to string two words together to complete a thought, let alone find LOVE and PEACE and JOY and CALM this time of year.

And every year I wish it were different.

Until the darkness envelopes me so much that I’m blind to everything.  Left straining to see.

And eventually I do, if I squint real hard, I begin to see.

Those little bits of light that shine in even the deepest darkness.

The first glimmer of light was in the sound of my son’s trumpet at his jazz band concert this week.  And in the voices of the choir at his school as they joined together in song for the season.   JOYful music is contagious.  My heart was dancing inside me as I returned home that night, content–even if only momentarily– for the first time in weeks.

There were bits of light in the very dog hair that I’d been cursing the past few months (because it’s EVERYWHERE), when I happened to look at the calendar and see that we brought our dog home for the first time–“rescued” him from eight months of not belonging anywhere –this same week last year, and how he didn’t have any hair to lose then, because the stress of having “no room at an inn” must have really gotten to him.  Now, a year later, he is every bit the beautiful and hairy Golden Retriever he was meant to be.  Suddenly I found myself weeping with LOVE for this hairy dog that somehow misunderstood the whole “rescue” thing… because in the end the one who feels rescued is me.

There were bits of light in the hustle and bustle of this whole season as I went to the post office today, dropping a bunch of packages right before the lunch hour of our tiny little post office, only to find the post office worker in no hurry to break for his lunch, but instead taking his time to care for my packages and make sure I had everything I needed.  Did I want insurance?  Did I want  priority service?  Which Christmas stamps did I want?  Suddenly I felt his CALM and I wondered why in the world I’m running around like a lunatic when this time of year his job must be pretty stressful.  If he could take it in stride, then I might be able to, also.

And then, a hint that maybe I was finally beginning to understand.  It may have been a “sign” if that’s how you like to say it…there were even bits of light in the black sky last night as I walked with my dog.  Even though it was still early evening,  it felt like bedtime the sky was so black.  Until I noticed the shimmering stars in the crisp night air.  And suddenly, I thought of the Wise Men, and how they trusted those little bits of light to lead them to their King.

And I realized that maybe the way I have been experiencing Advent once again this year isn’t really all that “wrong.”

Would I like to be more organized?  More giving?  More cheerful?  More loving?

You bet I would.

But it’s quite possible that if I were so busy being all those things, I’d miss the Truth of where the Light comes from.

Suddenly, I realized the only thing really “required” of me this season is to trust in the darkness, and cherish the bits of light I see.

And it’s only in realizing this, that I am just now–finally– able to usher in a sense of PEACE.

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A JOYful “To Do” List

It’s been a looong time coming, but I finally did it.

I took the day off.

As a housewife, some people may think that that’s all I ever do– have “days off.”  And that’s fine for them to think, but I know it’s not my reality.  Before I became a housewife, I may have even thought that myself.  Instead, what’s been my reality in my 12 1/2 years as a housewife, is that since my “work” is my life and my life is my “work,” when I’m doing nothing, I feel guilty (even all weekend long), and when I’m doing something, I can only think about all the other things I still need to do.   Sure, I’ve spent many days getting nothing done.  And I’ve had many “off” days where things just didn’t go right.  What I’ve never done, ever before, is picked a day that would otherwise be a “work day” and just taken the day off.  You know what that requires?  It requires permission from yourself.  And that can be a challenge.  Especially when the laundry is mounting, the Christmas shopping has only a dent in it, and (in my case this year) there is a trip to plan.

Today, I decided it didn’t matter.  In fact, I kind of had to decide it, or very quickly I think LIFE would have decided it for me, by making me sick.  You see,  I was already feeling run-down, stressed out, ragged, exhausted, and overwhelmed.

All last week, I didn’t post here on my blog one time (you may have noticed), because I had the worst writer’s block I’ve ever had.  And THAT was stressing me out, too.

So last night, I went to bed with the intention that after a good night’s sleep, I would wake up revitalized today and start knocking things of my very long and very demanding “To Do” list.

But guess what?  I didn’t get a good night’s sleep.  I had a terrible night’s sleep.

I woke up at 2:30 in the morning and NEVER got back to sleep.  I could have slept in, but I had so much “To Do”, that I didn’t think sleeping in was possible.  So, at 6:30 AM, I did what I always do and spent some time reading Scripture and meditating.  At 7:30 AM, once I got the first child off to school, I decided to do what I normally do, and I did a quick workout.  I knew if I was going to have any energy today, it would only come from taking care of myself.  Then I got myself showered and ready, got the other kids off to school and walked the dog.  After that, I normally start the “To Do” list of the day and I don’t stop again until the kids get back home, which usually involves more stuff “To Do,” just with others involved.

Not today.  Today, I decided when I got home from walking the dog, that everything I’d done up until then was really all I could “Do” on so little sleep.  So I gave myself permission to sit, watch TV (very life-affirming TV, I might add, as I had DVR’d “Super Soul Sunday” on OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, yesterday) and I sat down and watched hours…literally hours…of uplifting stories of faith, spirituality and healing.

Then I wrote in my journal for a bit, did a little more meditation, and took a nap.

I woke up just in time for my kids to get home from school.  And you know what?  Aside from their homework, I’m going to give them a day off, too.  No chores for anybody tonight.  No need to race and rush and struggle to “get it all done” for tomorrow.  No harping and nagging to put this away, do this, do that.

I spent all last week desperately hoping and praying to channel some brilliant message from God (as if I can control that), to share with you this week, and it just didn’t happen.

So I knew something had to change.

What changed was that, after a “day off,”  I realized I needed to actively put into practice  the message and lesson I’ve been learning (and re-learning) all year:  love yourself.

And you know what?  About the time the kids got home from school, I realized that in taking a day off, I’d succeeded in completing the very form of “loving myself” that was needed.  It felt good!

So good, in fact, that I feel I am better equipped now to handle all that this season demands of us…both the” inner” work required of the religious season of Advent, and the “outer” work of the secular world and all it’s hustle and bustle.  I feel more clear of mind and more loving of heart than I have since the first signs of Christmas appeared in the stores before Halloween.  For the first time in awhile, in fact, I feel like I’m in the rightful spot of giving from love and  receiving love as it comes my way.

And that’s when I realized that God’s message doesn’t change for this season.  We change.  We look inward.  We wait and watch.  But the message is as old as time:  love Jesus, Others, Yourself.  Do this and you will know JOY for this– and every– season.

It’s a simple message, but I sure do try to make it complicated.

Not today, though.

Today, after giving myself permission to do nothing else,  it was the only thing left that was still acceptable “To Do.”