Last month, I bought chocolate Advent calendars from Trader Joe’s for the kids. They’ve been sitting in the pantry for weeks, and the anticipation for them was intense! We held out until December 1, and they finally got to open that first box last night after we put up the Christmas tree.
As an adult, I’m less prone to the Santa-wishing, sugar-fueled anticipation of Christmas that is common to children. I may not be dreaming of Santa’s sleigh and a white Christmas (we live in North Carolina), but I have plenty of hopes and dreams for which I am waiting. It’s easy to get caught up in the fever of “the most wonderful time of the year” (or feel disappointed when it doesn’t live up to expectations.
Whether it is waiting for COVID restrictions to lift, circumstances to change, pieces of a dream to come together, or just counting down the days until Christmas, I’m convinced that waiting periods can be fruitful. Time spent in uncomfortable places is revealing. How we spend our time waiting shapes our experience of whatever it is we are waiting for.
If we re-brand waiting as “preparation,” we suddenly have time to be purposeful and intentional. We can delight in each passing day, even celebrating and marking the passing of time, helped by treats along the way.
Traditions, routines, and rhythms help us live well while we wait.
Advent (which started this week) is an intentional season on the church calendar in the five weeks before Christmas that gives me an idea of how to manage the discomfort of waiting. In Advent, we both prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth, which has already happened, and hope for Christ’s return, when the bible tells us all will truly be made right. We practice gratitude and hopefulness.
I don’t know about you, but I have loads to be grateful for, even while there are a few things I’m still hoping may come to pass.
So while we wait (in a cosmic or literal sense), I thought I’d share a few simple but intentional choices that are helping me stay grounded and live well now- even in the midst of the holiday season, when the world around us is swirling and clamoring even more loudly for our anxious attention. Inspired by Britain, of course:)
- Following an Advent calendar or devotional. I promised I’d share more about why we love London, and St. Barnabas Church in Kensington is one big reason. Check out their daily Advent offerings, open to anyone: https://www.stbk.org.uk/advent-calendar. The Church of England has also created some beautiful resources for families to use . At home, we’re using a beautiful new book called Shadow & Light, by Tsh Oxenrider. She’s not a Brit, but an American like me who has spent time living abroad and has good Anglican sensibilities.
- Seeking out beauty through with all my senses. Part of the Advent tradition involves lighting a candle every night. Sometimes I light our Christmas-scented candle in the afternoon too, just for fun! Check out the Choir of Kings College in Cambridge on YouTube. I can’t stand how much I love those sweet little faces singing that beautiful music. Heaven.
- Spending more time in nature. We’ve discovered that we can get up early on the weekend and go for a walk in the woods near our house before the kids even stir. COVID-friendly date AND so good for my soul. It’s hard to feel worried and anxious when you are surrounded by trees and rocks and birds that go on existing and singing despite any of our human mess.
- Serving other people. Even though we pour ourselves out all day long because we have to feed the kids, walk the dog, etc., there is something about choosing to help someone outside of our family that in turn makes me feel blessed. I'm working on this one with the kids too...
- Setting aside quiet time. A cup of something warm to drink, a cozy blanket and a book- preferably about somewhere else or another time period. Sometimes we need permission to enjoy these simple, inexpensive pleasures- once a day, once a week, even once a month. Our instinct when waiting is to fill the time with busyness and distraction, but the irony is that slowing down and appreciating something good in the here and now makes it better. The best book I’ve read recently is a novel- Becoming Mrs. Lewis, The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis, by Patti Henry. I borrowed it for free on Hoopla from my local library! I just started Middlemarch, which is a little more intimidating. Trying to up my classic British literature game.
I’ve tried to make this last bit easier. I’ve curated a collection of gift boxes for the holidays, and I noticed a theme… They almost all include a good book, a mug made in England, and treats! Whether you ask for one for yourself or send a box to someone else, I hope you’ll be inspired to sink in to a good book and enjoy the simple pleasures of warmth, quiet and stillness during this season!