Monday, December 26, 2011

in clover: Appreciating December 26

It’s the day after Christmas and all through the house, not a creature is stirring…

This is one of my favorite days of the year. 

Growing up, Christmas was a busy, happy time at our house and my mother nearly worked herself to death, hosting most of our multiple celebrations in our home.   I loved it all….the house full of aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents and friends, the special food,  music, candles, decorations and traditions and yes, the gifts.  My mom pulled it all off without a hitch but at age 47, I am now (painfully) aware of just how exhausting serving as hostess, even for your very own family, can be. 

As a very young adult newly on my own, I embraced the busy-ness…why only a single Christmas tree to decorate when I could put up three…or four?  Why only one batch of cookies…how about a dozen?  But then, somewhere along the way, I just got tired.  Meanwhile, I had created this expectation in myself that this was how Christmas “was” and I found it very difficult to let it go without feeling guilty for being lazy or selfish or any other number of not very nice words. 

The day AFTER Christmas became my favorite day because generally, nothing was expected of me.     No cooking, no table setting, no last minute gift wrapping.  On the day after Christmas, there was no need to even get dressed.  The truth is that I enjoy all of our holiday traditions…baking and decorating Christmas cookies and filling stockings and wrapping gifts and cooking special food.  I enjoy it all very much but that doesn’t change the fact that when I CHOOSE to serve as hostess, I must always be thinking ahead.  When I am the hostess, even if it’s “just” for my own family, the few days leading up to Christmas will be busy and hectic and yes, tiring.  (Note to self:  plan accordingly.) 

For years I thought of the day after Christmas as a day of recuperation and it certainly was.  But as I woke this morning, I realized that for me, it was and still is much more than just a “lazy day.” 

As a young person, on December 26, I would crawl into bed with my mother, bringing with me one of many new books Santa left for me.  Mom had a stack of new books and magazines too.  We’d pile the pillows up behind us and get comfortable…we’d read our books, often stopping to muse for a few minutes…rehashing all the festivities of the previous days…..”Wasn’t dinner SO good last night?   I think it was the best it’s ever been, don’t you? What was your favorite dish this year?”  

On December 26, we didn’t cook a thing but we’d feast all day…“breakfast”  might be a yeast roll with the last little bit of country ham paired with a few Jordan almonds, one soft peppermint stick, a handful of Carr’s water biscuits and some tiny bites of brie and maybe a few spoonfuls of “Five Cup Salad” (our version of ambrosia). Or maybe it was just a big old bowl of cornbread dressing and gravy.  

Do you like your new sweater?  I LOVE my new sweater!  What about you, do you like those earrings? I do, I really do!  Where did you get find them?  I didn’t find them anywhere…Santa did! Oh, that’s right!  Sorry!  Here, take a taste of this dressing….thank you!  Oh my goodness…that’s so good.  What about our breakfast? It was really good, don’t you think?  The best ever.  Did you hear Aunt G ask me for my  broccoli casserole recipe? I am not surprised!  It was so delicious!  Did you really think so?  Of course!  It was wonderful. Do you like that book because I just wasn't sure….

And that’s pretty much how the day would be. 

Reading, talking, snacking and napping. 

We were tired and yes, we were recuperating.I really had no idea that mostly what were doing was relishing...we were relishing Christmas. I  realize now that has always been my favorite part.

The relishing part. 

This morning it is December 26 and at my house, it sounds like this:

I think our sugar cookies were the best they’ve ever been, don’t you?  I do!  Maybe it’s because they were a little thicker than usual.  You think? That’s funny because I didn’t mean to make them thicker…I was just in hurry to get them in the oven!  Mommy, I really, really want to wear the new shirt Caleb gave me.  Honey, are you sure you like that necklace because I just wasn't sure....Michael….a spicy bloody mary sure would be nice…with a Burke’s Bakery butterflake roll and some cold beef tenderloin…and maybe a piece of the maple sugar candy mom sent?  You know, I'm really glad you suggested tenderloin this year. The kids really enjoyed it.  Maybe we could watch old home movies later…..wanna do that?

My wish for each of us in the coming new year is space and time for relishing our lives.  The busy times and the quiet times.  The holidays and the ordinary days. 

 To relish, meaning: 

 To delight in...
 To enjoy...
 To like...
 To revel...

To appreciate. 



Monday, December 5, 2011

in clover: go begging

“Advent is a time when we beg God for the gift of peace…Even though others might reject God’s gift, we welcome it with joy, hope, and anticipation.  That’s the work, the wisdom, the way of the spiritual life.  We welcome God’s coming into the world with the gift of peace by living in peace here and now with ourselves and everyone.”  John Dear SJ, in a National Catholic Reporter article
What does that mean, anyway?  To beg?  
When I think of begging, I think of something like this:

Beg, verb:  to ask for as a gift, as charity, as a favor.  to ask someone to give or do something.  

But as I read, this caught my eye:

Idiom:  go begging.  to remain open or available.  ex.  Good jobs still go begging in that field.

For Christians, Advent is intended as a time of waiting…of listening…of preparation.  The word advent means “arrival.”  I love Father Dear’s description of Advent.
 “I think of Advent, then, as a Christian season of mindfulness. We take four weeks to return to our center, enter the present moment of peace, live and eat and walk in peace, and wake up to the holy essentials of peace.  Advent offers the chance to start the journey of peace all over again.  It’s a time to practice peacemaking in our day to day, hour by hour life.”

I love his description but I realize that my typical Advent looks nothing like that.
I wonder what it would look like, to genuinely treat Advent as a season of mindfulness?   Some of my Advent activity is self imposed.  I could start there.  Some activities are beyond my control, like things at school and sports activities and even business meetings at church, but I can do my best to make conscious choices about how I spend my Advent time.  For a people pleasing Enneagram type 2 like me, saying no will likely feel intensely uncomfortable.  I can prepare for that discomfort in advance.
How would it feel if I made an effort to limit as many “ordinary” activities as possible during Advent?    I could take care not to schedule routine appointments during Advent...things like dental checkups could be taken care of before or after Advent.    I could speak to leaders of my Christian community and ask them to consider suspending “ordinary” meetings during Advent.  And, when I am in charge of organizing meetings and events, I could mindfully avoid scheduling them during Advent.  There would still be busyness, but it would be a start.  Of course that is only the beginning.  As a friend reminded me recently, sometimes we clear our plates of busyness only to head right back to the table for seconds…heaping  our plates full, all over again. 
This year, I can do my best to leave a few hours unscheduled.   I can leave a little empty space… an invitation to Spirit.  I can do my best to stay open and available.  

During Advent this year, I can intentionally choose to let ordinary ways “go begging.” 
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