It’s Advent! What do you have to wait for?

The season begins with its rich sounds, smells, flavors and traditions. Now comes the change, with stores and social media working overtime to sell us on the holiday spirit. Now comes the new flavor of excitement for children. Christmas excitement. Winter break excitement. The excitement of getting and hopefully, at least a little, the excitement of giving. Now comes the overloaded schedules, the to-do lists, the decades of collected recipes that make the familiar holiday meal what it is.

With the passing of Thanksgiving, we begin a season of anticipation and preparation. The almost-here but the not-quite-yet season.

And we call it Advent.

The word “Advent” means arrival or appearance. It is a season of waiting. They told me as a child, “it’s good for you to wait. Patience is a virtue.”

On the farm, expectation comes with the territory. Our little one-acre plot has flowers at one end. I plant the seed, wait for it to sprout, transplant and nurture the little seedling into full growth. What I did not know until this year is that it can take a full 25 days from when I first spied the dahlia bud for it to bloom. We wait.

At the other end of the farm are the birds. My husband came home in spring with a chirping cardboard box nestling five little chicken chicks and two turkey chicks. The turkeys grew and grew, waddling this way and that. The children introduce the turkeys to all our friends. This one is called “Thanksgiving” and this one is called “Christmas” indicating the holiday on which we would thank the Lord for their life and our bounty. Only the female remains now. The male, in its 39.2 lb glory met its Thanksgiving fate. We waited.

Three years ago we first parked our car beside this house and fell in love with its decorative trim and many buildings. We moved in three months later and got to work. A project here, a project there, some requiring expert assistance, others in the DIY realm. There are so many dreams and ideas, but we can tackle them just one at a time with minimal overlap. So we wait.

The expectant mother.

The parent at their child’s hospital bedside.

The quarantined relative.

We wait.

How full of waiting life is. How many times do we look ahead, full of excitement or full of dread, and allow that anticipation to rob us of the moment in front of us right now? Or how caught up we can be in the moment that we forget to wait at all. We grow anxious, impatient, and want it not now. Or we forget to look ahead at all. The big moments of life come and go, but our hearts are not stirred like they might have been. We did not wait. We merely went with the flow, unaffected, caught in the current.

Life is meant to be a gentle balance of attention to the present moment of anticipation, that is, hope, in what is to come. We wait well when we grow a little when we take a deep breath and stay calm. We wait well when we look ahead and allow ourselves the excitement that children live by.

But what have we to wait for?

What is Christmas but so much sadness when the ones you love are in the grave or far away or relationships are fractured and traditions reevaluated in light of so many changes?

Even if you have lost something this year or last year or the year before that, even if you are broken in heart and spirit, there is something worth waiting for. It may be the small, quiet moment of joy. It may be kindness from a stranger or the thoughtfulness of an old friend. It may be the cheerfulness of others less worn down by the storms of life. It might be the unadulterated happiness of a child. It might be heaven. It might be resurrection, coming to life again, a time when things will be healed and made new. It might be the gift that you are to others. It might be the friend you haven’t yet met, the conversation you haven’t yet had, the reconciliation you never thought would happen, the forgiveness you are not ready to give.

There is something worth waiting for.

And so we wait.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

How to use Holiday decorations to teach religious traditions that matter

Photos of the week…

Easter Edition

Like Christmas, Easter has its octave because a big celebration requires more than just one day of celebrating. After the octave, the Easter season lasts until Pentecost.

IMG_4001

Last year, I planned my Easter decorations while I sat beside Peter’s hospital crib. The fulfillment was more than just some decor decisions. It was the sign of the promise that “a time would come when God would fill what he had emptied.”

IMG_3997

Easter felt quieter this year. The emptiness of a child gone held its own against the joys of togetherness and our salvation. I felt at home in the cross. Still, I decorated. Regardless of how I feel in grief, the importance of the day remains and it is my duty to show it to my children.

I show it through bunting.

IMG_4005

Our traditions emerge. With Dollar Tree flowers, ribbon and colored elastic from Rainbow Fabrics the children decorate their own baskets. We’ve learned tricks here and there to not destroy the baskets in the process.

IMG_4012

Last year, the idea came to me to give them each a color to search for. The miraculous thing is these greedy little imps help each other. The fun is in finding.

IMG_4027

Peter in his two-year-old glory is a hospital baby no more. He is part of a tribe, hunting for eggs, even if he will not eat their contents.

IMG_4030

His two-year-old willfulness shows the strength of his health…and my patience.

God, it’s good.

IMG_4017

Those who grieve know the grief grows quieter but does not disappear. I thought I would feel a rousing joy at Easter like I once did, but the season of life has changed. And that’s okay.

Good things run deeper than emotion. God’s grace, his faithfulness, the gift of his Son, Christ’s self-emptying for our sake to show us the way…even at the Resurrection, the scars remained.

Christ showed us the way, perfectly.

For that, I am grateful.

IMG_4068