Sunday was the first day of Advent. That may mean nothing to some of you. To me it means more than Christmas. Advent is that time of preparation before Christmas and to me that represents great anticipation, inwardness, and reflection. And so often anticipation is better than the real thing. Preparing my heart, being present to the before…awakens me and invites me to celebrate the season instead of fear it.
The past few years I haven’t made an Advent wreath because it takes up so much space and we only have one small table for meals. The greens get old and the needles fall off. It is just too messy. But this year I said to hell with the mess, I want my children to experience the joys of Advent I remember as a kid and the value I get from it now as an adult. So that means a few fallen needles to pick up, less space at the table…I’ll get over it. It all comes back to surrendering.
We wrapped cedar branches around our metal wreath, tied on purple ribbon and holly and came up with a pretty festive Advent wreath. I explained to my kids that each candle represents one week before Christmas, three purple and one pink, as celebrated in the Catholic tradition I grew up in.
As we lit the first candle, I was instantly brought back to my childhood dining room and could hear my mom singing, O, Come O, Come Emmanuel, in her high soprano voice. My kids had tons of questions and the wreath became quite a conversation piece that first meal with the lit candle. More questions ensued during the next couple of meals. When do we light the next candle?
I love the new beginning Advent represents. I made a conscious effort this morning to spend some alone time on the couch, with some words, some silence and room for God to show up. I thought about starting breakfast, packing lunch, getting dressed. That’s when God showed up. Don’t you dare, God seemed to say. My kids were sleeping in, my gift, and I already wanted to throw it away. Ignore it. Toss it away. So I sat in the quiet, breathing in the day and all its gifts, all its glory and yes, all its mess.
By accepting my gift of some morning quiet time that meant dishes didn’t get done before heading out the door. But you know what? That was twelve hours ago and I can honestly say, by not having the house in perfect tidy order this morning didn’t kill anyone. The dishes got done eventually. My children are still alive, and I didn’t yell, okay I didn’t yell more than once. No one arrested me for dishes in the sink, dirty laundry in the basket or pine needles on the floor.
Where will I make room for what matters tomorrow? Will I let the dust stay on the furniture one more day in order to savor some afternoon quiet time?
We are given these little gifts and so often as mothers we feel the need to dismiss them, cover them up with guilt, ignore them as selfish acts that are just silly thoughts.
So in the mess of life this Advent I am going to try and remember no one cares how clean my house is but me…and my soul is what will thank me for being kind to it. My house won’t re-pay with words of love and gratitude – it will just be there when I get to it.
There is a time to clean up the mess and a time to let the mess be.