It's the third day of Christmas, but the main event is over. Our Advent candles are still sitting out, but we no longer gather around to light them each evening. Our tree is still up (the bottom third bare, thanks to a certain grabby toddler), waiting for Epiphany. The cardboard boxes have been taken to the recycling depot. The turkey has been eaten and the stock made and frozen, to my great satisfaction. I do believe it's time to indulge in a little holiday navel-gazing.
Actually, let's rephrase that. Forget navel-gazing. I've decided we'll call it heart-gazing from now on. Navel-gazing sounds so negative. Why is that? Self-reflection is great. It's easy to look at everyone and everything else and pass judgement, but change only happens when we look at ourselves. Get your growth game on, yo.
So there you have it. My positive spin on and justification for some indulgent navel-gazing. Let's make it a thing. Go ahead and use it yourself. You're welcome.
This past season of Advent and our current season of Christmas were both very good and very difficult. The holidays were beautifully intentional, just the way I want them to be. But then I would look up at this whole weary world and I just can't. How do you even pray, where do you even begin to help, to bring hope, or to bring change? I was there during Lent and I was still there this Advent: Thy Kingdom come, dear God, please. It was Advent in the truest sense, a begging hope, a desperate anticipation, a mourning for what is and longing for what will come, for Who will come.
But Advent isn't only for me and my wrestling between hope and despair. And so each day we would light the candles - one spot closer on our spiral wreath, the appropriate number of candles on our Advent wreath - and the kids would argue about whose turn it was to blow out the match, because jostling each other next to lit candles is always a good and wise idea. Then we would sit on the couch (where they would argue about who got to sit on which side of me, because I guess I look better from certain angles maybe?). We would read another name of Jesus, along with the appropriate passage, then move on to the day's reading from Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. We would finish up our time together with a short responsive prayer (thank you to The Anglican Family Prayer Book for making it easy for us) and a weekly Advent hymn. Sibling arguments aside, it was a lovely time each day together, and, I believe, the very first time we have ever got through the entire Advent without losing steam before the end. It flowed well and fit nicely and was a good thing in our holidays.
Christmas was good too. Just us, it was quiet and peaceful and really quite perfect. The best decision I made was intentionally choosing ahead of time to put the camera away while we went about our day. It allowed me to be far more present than other years. No taking pictures of every gift as they unwrapped it, no worrying about blurry shots and missed opportunities and posed smiles and ugh, all of it, I was so glad to just say no to myself and do away with what is usually a stressful and ultimately pointless exercise. When do I ever go back and look at pictures of them unwrapping each gift? I took one quick shot of each of them after the gift unwrapping was done, and otherwise the day passed by blissfully undocumented but fully experienced.
Now comes the time of year when we review, consider what worked and what could be improved. My head's not wholly there yet though. We're busy preparing for "second Christmas" with family arriving this week, but I'll get around to it eventually.
Still, some things are readily apparent to me when I think back on the past months. This year was one of growth and change - as, perhaps, all years should be. I discovered that I could possibly become friendly with early mornings after all. I took up running. I confronted my anxiety for the first time. I sought healing.
Much of it was good, but there is always room for improvement - for healthier and stronger relationships, for more intentional choices, for better routines, for new habits. What do I want for this new year? Not a complete reinvention, but a slow and steady continual turning, growing. If last year was my year to be Fearless, what will be my focus for the next twelve months? I look forward to a time of quiet reflection in which to ask these things of myself and my God.
But first there are floors to be washed and dust bunnies to be defeated and then family to love and enjoy and with whom to celebrate the birth of the One Who would bring us freedom and a new commandment: Love.
To all of you from all of us: May your new year be filled with the greatest joy and deepest peace. Thank you for being here.