Today we undeck the halls. Creches, candles and Santas will be boxed, the tree will feed the bonfire pile. We’ll rearrange and redecorate. The house will look ‘normal’ again, it will revert to pre-Thanksgiving decor. Not very festive, granted, but proper and practical. January is here, Christmas is over (yes, liturgically the Christmas season extends, I know that, but as far as our house goes, it is over), a new year we’ve entered.
As I think back over Advent and the Lent in Advent commitments I made I wonder just what happened. Here is what I committed to and vowed to keep you abreast of:
1. fast one day a week (no food, only drink)
2. pray contemplatively EVERY day for 30 minutes
3. see those around me and do or say two nice things, every day
4. at least once a week give time, goods or money so that others might sense God’s love for them
I started out with a struggle and plenty of failure. It was humbling, indeed it was humbling. Everything was work and even felt forced. Such struggle brought me to my knees where I asked for God’s strength and power and perspective. He showed up and, even through difficult days, I found myself desiring to help others, wanting to give time, goods or money…what a joy, what a blessing these times of reaching toward others were. Prayer was more ‘on’ than ‘off’, most every day prayer was entered and what a blessed time it was. I had some 20+ hour segments of fasting, but never a full 24 hours. An abysmal failure there.
As I reflect on the three + weeks of Advent, I see that after seeking God’s mercy to help me and sensing His working through me to the benefit of others, I was hit with the longest migraine I’ve ever had (a full week), our cat got sick and refused to use the litter box (use your imagination here, I’m not gonna elaborate), the truck’s transmission gave up the ghost, our aged dog became ill and died. Could it be that a little personal forward spiritual movement was met by the enemy with an assault? It sure seems like it could be. Maybe dark warriors stood ready to snuff out any new glimmers of light…maybe those moments of chaos, confusion, pain, grief, illness and death were icy blasts from Hell designed to put out a newborn flame.
Some may wonder: what didn’t get done? No family Christmas picture or letter sent this year, only one batch of cookies exited the oven, shopping was limited due to our limited budget (much was purchased online), I didn’t decorate the basement and kept decorations upstairs in check (i.e. no festive centerpiece ever created or bought for our diningroom table), we didn’t attend every party/festive gathering. I didn’t freak about a “to do” list this year…things did get done, but not everything and not perfectly.
In many ways it was a challenging Advent, but then again, in many ways it was a beautiful Advent. I wonder if…no, I trust that He used all of it for His glory, that all of it was allowed for His purposes and that His will found a place to manifest in the midst of our home, in the midst of my heart. I cannot say without doubt, but it is possible and sure feels like I’m more in love with Him than I was before…