Saturday, December 01, 2018

Go Slow, Let it Go, Anticipate

I love mantras, intentions, a focus. Each month, I spend some time going through the prompts provided by my Cultivate Planner and chose a word or a phrase that will serve to guide me intentionally through the month.
I ask God to set words apart for me that will provide a visual reminder of how He wants me to cooperate with His Spirit and His work in my life for that month. 

Obviously, I cannot know what the month ahead will hold, but I can look at my calendar, think about the season of life I am in and decide how to make the most of it all. 

For this December, I chose the phrase, "Go slow, Let it go, Anticipate."

Christmas can be such a time of frenzy. It can come and go so fast that by January 1st, we wonder what just happened. It can also be heavy with expectations that are hard to meet, demands we place on ourselves and others. 

I've spent too many years getting to December 25 and feeling like I wasted a month. I have stood at Christmas Eve service with my candle lit, unable to truly enter in the solemn anticipation of what we are about to receive in recognizing the coming of Christ because I cannot stop obsessively going through the mental checklist of all I wanted to do, had to do, forgot to do, and still need to do. 

So, for several years now, I have sought to approach December differently than I have in the past, intentionally, purposefully.  I want to come to January 1st knowing that I was not whisked through the whirlwind of shopping, decorating, baking, and all the other typical trappings of Christmas and missed the wonder of it all. 

Go slow
I am task oriented by nature and love efficiency, probably to an idolatrous level. Just this morning, I found myself stirring my emergen-c drink while trying to fill my K-cup with coffee grounds at the same time. I mean, I do have two hands.  Might as well make both of them work at the same time?! Ah...this is my default setting. 

And, then I remembered how I actually want to go through my days: walking not sprinting. I want to go slow.
For me, it means

  • doing ONE thing at a time
  • walking through my house at a reasonable pace (I am known to move rather quickly from task to task)
  • not allowing my brain to shift into its default setting of frenetically thinking through all that needs to be done but rather purposing to be fully present with what is right in front of me.
But, guess what happens when I slow down, am fully present and not rushing through my days?  I don't get to everything I want to get to. 
Laundry piles up. 
Floors remain crumby. 
Leaves continue to blanket my yard. 
I miss a lot of deals on stuff we might want to buy for ourselves or others. 
There is not a ubiquitous supply of cookies and fudge in my house throughout December and so on and so on. 

Hence, the second part of my guiding mantra for December, "
Let it go."

Let go of my endless expectations to make it all perfect.
Let go of the expectations others may have of me to show up, give the best gift, give a gift at all.
Let go of the expectations the culture around me that tells me there is a specific and comprehensive way to "do Christmas right."  It just ain't so. 
Let go of the fear of letting my kids down.  (Maybe the hardest one for me. Am I right, mommas?)

As I go slow and let it go, it makes room for me to anticipate, and this, for me is what December is really all about. Or, at least for me, this is what I want the month of December to be all about. 

A few ways I anticipate the coming of Christ.

A plethora of advent material exists. Do just a quick search on Amazon, and you will find a host of products, books and materials to choose from.
A few of my favorite over the years are:
Ann Voskamp's, "The Greatest Gift."  She has a book for adults and separate ones for you to use with your children. 

When my children were preschoolers, I simply looked up "Free printable advent coloring pages," found something I loved and printed them.  I had the kids color them, and we hung them on a long piece of twine in our basement as a fun visual for them to add up the days to Christ's coming.

  • Light it up!  My husband and I are big fans of light: natural light, candlelight, LED light, etc. Christmas is the perfect time of year to confront the ever-darkening days of winter with lights of every kind. We light our Christmas tree, wrap stringed lights around our floor lamp poles, weave lights through our pine garland, and set candles wherever there may be any shadows.

    Each morning, I amble down the dark hallway with the glee of knowing I get to turn on all the lights. I used to wait until the evening came, but I am finding this year, I want to enjoy the lights all day long.

    I try to pass on the spirit of anticipation and glee by giving special permission to my youngest to light the candles.  Kids love playing with fire, and this builds an atmosphere that something special is happening.

Over the years, there have been other ways I have built anticipation into our daily December rhythms such as putting an empty manger (think shoe box with straw inside) under the Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, "baby Jesus" shows up in the manger (think whatever baby doll I can find lying around the house, usually one that had no clothing on it...which, come to think of it, is probably rather accurate.)  

I have a nativity set with a manger and baby Jesus that is separate. So, I hide that baby Jesus as well; He comes out on Christmas morning to take His place of 'honor.'  

I have visual "cues" around the house to foster a spirit of anticipation such as scrabble pieces that spell out "We Wait" on my kitchen window sill above where I wash dishes daily, the word, "Adore" decoratively hanging from a birch peg log my parents gifted me years ago, nativity sets from all around the world providing the bulk of our Christmas decor in the main living areas of our home, and framed Christmas cards that speak of the Christ to come. 

These are just a few ways I have sought to cultivate a spirit of anticipation in my home. I know many of you could come up with many more and creative ways to do similar. And, I would love to hear about them in the comments. 

If you love the hustle and bustle, and the frenetic pace most people get caught up in this time of year gives you a buzz, then go for it. It's your jam and your way of making the most of this season.  For me, however, I will choose to go slow, let it go and anticipate.