and so it begins ...

We're starting simply this year. Traveling over Thanksgiving meant I was surprised to walk into church on Sunday and find it was already Advent, a season that has become increasingly important to me. So we bought some greens, fashioned a wreath, sang a few songs, and lit that first candle. It was simple, and it felt just right.
I've been reading To Dance with God, by Gertrude Mueller Nelson, a book about incorporating the church's liturgical seasons into home and family life, and she has some profound things to say about Advent. Do you know the story about the origins of the advent wreath, that people took wheels off their carts and wagons and brought them inside, festooning them with light, making a clear statement that this cold, dark time is a different time, a time to turn inward rather than produce? Isn't that amazing? Think what it would mean if took a wheel off our car to use for a wreath ... it would be less a decoration than a discipline, a forced slowing down and simplification.
November was a tough month for us ... a month when the busyness of boarding school life threatened to wash over us, and we both felt like we were drowning. I'm still adjusting, I think, to the absence of Retchel. I knew I was spoiled in Hong Kong, having someone help even a few hours each week with child care, housecleaning and laundry. But knowing you are spoiled doesn't make it any easier to adjust to not being spoiled, and I just keep waiting for someone else to show up and fold the clothes. So we've talked, we've schemed, we devised some systems, and I think we're in a better spot now. Just having a plan does me so much good.
Anyway, in the midst of this, I kept reading about the importance of slowing down even when the pace of life picks up, about mindfulness and breathing. And while it's easy to pass it off as cliche mumbo-jumbo, I am here to tell you that it really does work. Literally slowing down my movements and my words, setting aside that never ending list, focusing on what is in front of me: a boy experiencing his first snow fall, a girl who needs help getting to sleep. Even when I can't slow down any of the outside commitments, physically moving more slowly and tangibly committing to do less each day still helps. My heart and mind stop racing, my breath gets deeper, and things seem manageable. This certainly isn't an "efficiency tip"--how to do more in less time--but I wouldn't be surprised if the final productivity tally was similar to moving through life hurried and rushed. I'm not counting, though.
And I'm not, it goes without saying, going to actually take a wheel off our car ... or our bike or stroller, for that matter. But I am going to move slowly. Be still and know that I am God. And even if that means that all we have for advent is our little wreath and a calendar, that's ok. (and a banner! We're still watching for light.) We don't need an elaborate devotional plan or a Jesse tree or even a Christmas tree just yet. We are keeping company with Mary, who waited and wondered 9 long months, and with all those who are waiting and longing for God to break into this world.
In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength.
May it be so for all of us. 


Welcome! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Welcome! said...

I've just discovered your blog and really enjoy your gentle, warm observations about God, parenting and living with intention. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Dana in NH

Liese said...

Right on. Monte! Thanks so. I love the vese from Isaiah, In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength. It is a wonderful summary of all you shared. Thanks for your wisdom and the discipline it takes to gather your thoughts and write them so meaningfully artistically punctuated with super photos!! Blessings! Breathe deeply, I say to myself! :)

Monte said...

Thanks, Dana and Liese! Dana, we used to live in NH before our Hong Kong days, and still really miss New England. and Liese, as always, your words are so encouraging and kind.