I realize not all those who ready my blog will observe Advent, the weeks leading up to Christmas. But if you celebration Christmas, then even without Advent, those weeks between Thanksgiving and December 25 can be full of lots of extra ctivity. And with that activity can come some pitfalls that can seriously derail the Season’s joy.
One of the most obvious pitfalls is being too busy. Yes, there’s finite time for infinite activity – but that’s not the point. The point of Advent and non-Advent-but-still-weeks-before-Christmas is to take time to go more slowly, to allow breathing room, to prepare inside and out for a beautiful Christmas.
Another pitfall is that, with a too-full schedule and stretched budget, we might spend ourselves, well, silly. Yes, we can do serious damage to the budgets of Christmases to come in these few days of December. But we don’t have to. Another point of Advent is that the focus can and should be more on relationships with others, time spent in fellowship, in mending past hurts, and in showing love and appreciation for the human gifts God has given us.
A third pitfall of Advent is that we get caught up in the societal hype around Christmas and forget the roots of the Season, the reason for our celebration. I love that, in Advent, I revisit Luke’s gospel and other narratives of faith, and I always try to learn something new. This time taken in soaking up history helps innoculate me against the “Ho! Ho! Ho!” all around me. Not that the jingles and bells aren’t nice, but I truly enjoy having this time to deepen my faith.
A safe journey through Advent is one that allows time for loved ones, for deepening faith, and for breathing in cooler (perhaps), reviving air that cleanses us and prepares us for the celebration and New Year ahead.
Whether or not you commemorate Advent, I hope that your time between now and Christmas is a safe journey, refreshing, loving, and bright!
Years ago, several people told me that you should always buy the gift that you yourself would like to receive. I suppose the meaning of this was that, given you had perfect taste in gifts, you’d never give a “dud.” And you’d never see your gift being re-gifted…Well…
I actually think the more logical thing to do would be to take the person for whom you’re shopping along with you. Not physically (that would defeat the purpose of giving a ‘surprise’ gift). But in your mind and heart. Look at all the selections before you and imagine the friend, parent, sibling, or co-worker actually wearing, using, or eating what you’re about to purchase. If you just can’t see it, don’t buy it. Unless you want it, which is a different blog post altogether!
When I write fiction, one of the exercises I’ll do is take my characters shopping with me – trying to see the world through their eyes. I think it works for “real life,” too; and I find I spend less time wondering what to get and more time understanding and appreciating each individual on my list.
It’s been a year of amazing blessings, but also a lot of extra pain and uncertainty, not to mention the ups and downs of having to take a new medication that has some unpleasant side effects. More than one person I know has died this year. Others are slowing down due to age or illness. And the world seems so much more dark than ever before.
I am an optimistic person, and so I refuse to rest long on the darkness or the pain. I tend not to linger over loss. But, yes, like many of you, I can acknowledge that it can be hard to find things to be thankful for this year.
So, I take my God-given optimism and turn it inward. If, on a particularly bad day, it’s hard to find big things to be thankful for, then I’m thankful for the small. A warm breeze. A perfectly ripe blueberry. A moment of total silence. A breath of fresh air that I know is cleansing me inside and out. A warm memory of a dear loved one. I remember, too, that it is up to me to notice these small things; neither God nor anyone else can make me see them if I’m not open to doing so. It truly is up to me to encourage that openness.
I lift up thanks for those amazing blessings this year, and all the love that surrounds me. And, yes, even in the pain and uncertainty, I lift up thanks for the smaller things that help me balance “bad days” and cut through darkness with the light of faith.
Yes, Happy Thanksgiving! May you find many small things to be grateful for, and may they overflow so abundantly that your heart will be filled and more by infectious joy!
If you live with a chronic illness, or if you have constant pain that interferes with movement or other daily activities, you might be dreading the upcoming gift-giving season. Not because you don’t have much money to spend on loved ones (although you might not) and not because you don’t like navigating the malls or surfing the web. No, you might be dreading it because you know that you’ll receive one or more gift(s) that just won’t work in your life. And then will come the “oh, I have no idea how I’m going to use this, but I have to because so-and-so will be hurt if I won’t.” Or the, “I can’t eat this. What will I say when so-and-so asks what I thought of it?”
To nip the gift disappointment in the bud (and stave off the ensuing guilt, etc.), I suggest taking charge! No, not “charge” as in buying gifts using plastic. I mean, approach the people with whom you exchange gifts (or who you know will offer you a token of the Season) and make suggestions such as, “I understand how hard it can be to give gifts to someone who has significant health issues, so I thought it might help you make a decision if you know that this year, I really need [name the thing].” or “This year, why don’t we just go out to a nice meal [or other alternate activity], instead of exchanging gifts.” or “This year, I’m asking my friends that, if they really want to give me something, perhaps they can make a donation in my name to [charity dealing with the illness you have].”
You can also couch your requests and comments in light of past years’ giving:
“You know, I used to be able to eat [name the food], but I really can’t anymore. But I really enjoy [name something you can eat].”
By making your constraints and needs known, you’re sending a clear signal that the other person, if acting out of care and love, will pick up and run with.
If, on the other hand, you indicate you cannot, for example, eat sugary foods, and the other person gifts them to you anyway, having made yourself clear, you cannot feel guilty by refusing or re-gifting the gift to someone who might enjoy it.