Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent - a time for preparing

...preparing for a journey ahead

Advent brings to mind so many things for me.

During our priest's sermon this morning at mass, I found it especially interesting and listened intently as he explained how simple preparations during the Advent season can enrich our lives, filling us with grace and blessings.

One of the many helpful suggestions offered during the sermon seemed to hit me deeply (smack in the center of my forehead to be exact). I could really relate to working on one virtue each week, every single day until it came becomes a habit.

It sounded easy - 4 weeks for 4 new virtues.

"Just be sure to work at one virtue every day for one week", he said. Sounds easy right?

At first it sounded like something else to add to my already overflowing to-do list, but just for a wee second, and then it all made sense to me. We have a choice to make. We can all choose to use this Advent entering our lives today for good, or not. We don't have to allow this liturgical preparation time to escape our busy, busy days at all.

Indeed Advent is a time to prepare our hearts. It's also a time for offering sacrifice. It's a time to pray, a time to anticipate and a time filled with wonder. With the entrance of a whole new church year, it's a time of hope for families filled with God's promises we can cling and hold on to.

Oh sure, I made plans to keep Advent in focus within our home during our moving preparation time we are currently experiencing, and beyond in fact, into our new home. It sounds good anyway doesn't it, to be able to voice that. Pulling it all off will be quite another thought. Or will it?

Don't get me wrong here. I knew I could keep up the continuity right now as we pack and lock up the house for another family to reside here, but once we arrive at our new home, that seemed questionable with the distraction ahead of unpacking again.

I finally found a tree to hang our brass Jesse Tree symbols on this year at IKEA, and loving all of the liturgical year possibilities it offers. I only had these red ribbon hangers but on my list for tomorrow is to set off and purchase purple ribbon instead, so much more fitting for this Advent season.

During the sermon, I must also confess my mind wondered all over the place with personal thoughts, concerns, anxieties and trepidations appearing before us during this same timing. By the end I sat spellbound for a moment to reflect on what was running through my head. I wanted to blurt out loud - "Wow, what a fitting time for everything we are preparing for"... truly I thought, it was absolutely fitting for everything happening in our lives right now!

Our second, handmade felt set of
symbols to hang on our Jesse tree.

(Just like the Jesse tree story, so too is God working on our own story here.)

We will walk the journey to Bethlehem, reflect on our Jesse tree symbol hanging and Bible readings, light our purple candles, recite our "O' Antiphons" - clearly attempting to keep Advent in our hearts and minds during the days ahead, all the while trekking to a foreign land where "home" will be where our hearts rest for the future.

I know for myself, it will present a constant to keep my focus ahead and still tend to, and keep my vision in both mind and body. I know I will eventually have to do battle with fatigue or the feeling of becoming overwhelmed, at least for the first few days while settling into our new abode. A simple thought hit me though, touching my heart deeply. Are we the only ones trying to keep the mental and spiritual intact while journeying forward to lands unknown in distant areas, trusting with all our hearts? No. There is another family making their way forward too. Now that puts a big smile on my face!

As uncertainties begin to creep up and attempt to turn me into a coward, even for a blip of a moment, I will dwell on a young girl's (Mary) trust as she proceeded forward, always trusting in God's ordained plan for her life. She just kept on trusting. Now I know I am not her, nor share the exact same journey of course, but if she could trust to easily, then why shouldn't I?

As we enter into yet another adventure "in the east", the one when that began with that whisper announcing - "it's time to go yet again", we have to continue stepping out in faith because;
  • At every step of the way, we know now that our path was already being formed for us.
  • A rocky road was being made smooth. Rounding curves ahead haven't been filled with forks so we wouldn't lose our way having to choose whether to turn right or left. It has only been a green light straight ahead for us.
  • The view is becoming more beautiful every day, especially over the past three weeks as we see the hand of God unfolding in every detail along the way since we first decided to proceed.
There is something so endearing as small tidbits of confirmation to comfort us when we were without a map to guide us, yielding our human natures heavenward, and following along where we knew we had to travel. We have been carried thus far and the forecast is only becoming brighter ahead. (with snow today!:-)

In just nine days, dozens of cardboard boxes will become filled and then stacked in rows all over our home. As we will creep along, moving from room to room, we'll begin to weave through mazes of the brown cubed blocks, hoping each one is labeled correctly for an easy unloading down the road. This will be the day of our Jenn's birthday back home, so we will honor her by having cupcakes for everyone during the day when a coffee break is in due order.

As there are still details not conforming to the exact timing of the move, we can only hope and pray the hardwood flooring workers will be able to complete the master bedroom in time for the movers to cart the furniture in there so our weary bodies can fall onto them when night falls that first day there. And, heck, if not, well, we'll just be prepared and content with being forced to camp out in the family room in front of the fireplace, that is, if we remember to keep an empty spot there without boxes resting in rows to get in the way of the possibility.

More importantly, as much as we love snow (well, you know "I" do, snicker), we pray the journey will offer our moving truck crew and ourselves driving both of our vehicles packed full, a safe road trip towards our new home. We pray for the absence of icy roads or highway closures, encountering possible snow squalls, or anything else of danger for our travels. We pray our guardian angels keep us wrapped up in their protective arms, fending off fatigue as we trek for many hours, in the middle of winter (and Advent).

I took this photo just for all of you tonight

Honestly! What a "perfect" time for our family to make a major move my friend! T'is the season for unlimited possibilities; a whole new year, and a focused and intentional time to prepare our hearts for the coming of one very sweet and wondrous babe. Oh yes, think of the possibilities! So, are you thinking???

If God wants it to be, my life will be useful through my word and witness.
If he wants it to, my life will bear fruit, through my prayers and sacrifices.
But the usefulness of my life is his concern, not mine.
It would be indecent of me to worry about that.

~ Dominique Voillaume