Friday, November 1, 2013

Welcome, "Season of Gratitude"

The past couple of years people have been posting on Facebook things they are grateful for each day for the month leading up to Thanksgiving in "30 Days of Thankfulness."  It's a chance to infuse the annual day of gathering and gorging with loved ones with a bit more intentionality and anticipation, and uses gratitude to help people stay connected to their lives.  I love reading people's lists as they grow - people they love, experiences that have shaped them, small gifts they appreciate.

Today begins a particular season for me, which I had yet to name. For the past couple of years, I have had a ritual that begins on Halloween and carries me to Thanksgiving. Here is what I wrote about it when I began.

OCTOBER 26 2011 - LOVING ON ADVENT

I love Advent. Love Love Love it.  I love the color of the "darkest sky before the dawn,"  I love the anticipation and the honesty, the willingness to say, "Look at this world, God!  We really need you! Could you please come?" And the waiting. I love the active, eager, honest waiting for the light of the world.  Yum.

However.

I DO NOT love shopping.
I hate shopping. And I ESPECIALLY hate shopping in Advent. It corrupts my Advent.  Muddies it with florescent brightness. Shopping spoils my waiting - because the good waiting, the dark and quiet and hopeful and prayerful and yearning waiting-  is ruined by the noisy, pushy, honking, piped-in-carols, counting-down-shopping-days waiting of "Holiday Season."


I worked at Pottery Barn for a holiday season, people, I've seen it from both sides.  And it is not pretty.  Normally fine people, perfectly pleasant people, become snippy, rude, pushy and greedy. (And I'm including myself in this). The smell of consumption clings to our clothes and our hair, the commercials screaming deals assault us and the never-ending checklist hovers over our waking hours.  And buried behind all this mess is the poignant call of Advent to settle into the deep. To get in touch with our need. To wait for God.

(And, let's just be clear, here, I am not going to be the person who can skip gifts and just donate to charity.  I enjoy the gift-giving and won't not do it.  I love Christmas. Almost as much as I love Advent.  Almost).

Well, I've had enough.

Today I read about someone who completes all their Christmas shopping and wrapping BY THANKSGIVING.  Done.  Then they spend all of December enjoying time with their family.  Ignoring the sales and the pressure and the crowds.  And I almost wept out loud.

That's it. I'm doing it.
I'm reclaiming Advent.


Every year I get swept into the madness, and feel overwhelmed and guilty and tired and sad and rushed.
Not this year.
I am in charge of my time and money - I am the steward of the gifts given to me to share! (Look into the mirror and say it with me!)  My time is more valuable than I treat it sometimes.  When the dust settles, I can remember what's important.  It just gets stirred up and confused sometimes.
So.  I'm doing things differently this year.  I'm doing my Christmas shopping now.

I'm hoping that shopping now - when the stores have already been displaying Christmas things for a month, I might add, but before the real drama of the consumer season begins - will help me keep some perspective:
That Christmas is really about presence, not presents,
that connecting with people is how we connect with God,
that the whole point of all of it is celebrating that God comes to share life with humanity, and we are called to share life with one another,
that the whole world belongs to God and not just the people I personally love.
That all of Advent is for sitting in the grey twilight of reality, holding life's treasures and pain gently, tenderly, openly - and not trampling all over them with tinsel and cheer.

36 shopping days until Thanksgiving.  (38 until Advent!)
I'm getting it done.
So I can sink into the wait.

Advent, sweet Advent, here I come.

That first year, it was a kind of freedom and release, a setting aside time in order to make a different kind of space for Advent and Christmas.
Last year, I enjoyed it more, but still saw it as mostly as necessary preparation for something else.  I shared,

Target - September 21, 2012
My practice reminds me of what a Jewish friend once described as Friday's market hustle and bustle and preparing the Shabbat meal and gathering the family and setting the table, so that when the sun goes down and Sabbath begins, you are ready.  It's a timing thing, the joy-filled work before the rest - a way that I created to help myself be as fully present as I am able to be in what I truly care about.

This year feels different.
Maybe it's having just been on sabbatical, but this year, the preparation itself it feels like something special.
The shopping feels sacred.
(What?!?)
Yes! I am finding the shopping itself a life-giving practice!
And I think I know what this season is for me now.  It's a "season of gratitude."  This is a pocket of time leading up to Thanksgiving, where I get to hold in my heart those people I love and am thankful for, to think of each of them as I choose a gift that fits them, to relish the thought of them opening it on Christmas day.  I get to spend time thinking of ways to bless those I care about, and holding them in gratitude.  My own "30 Days of Thankfulness" practice redeems shopping, of all things, and helps me to be present and grateful, even in the times of preparation.  It is transforming these moments to be about the gift of sharing this life, and celebration for the ways God connects us, even as I prepare for the coming quiet of Advent that is lingering on the horizon.

And so, with gladness I step into this "Season of Gratitude!"


If this sounds good to you, it's not to late to join me!

I'd also love to hear ideas you've tried or practices you do that help you stay present and open in the midst of holiday/pre-holiday chaos.  Please share!

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