As I mentioned, at the beginning of this month I found myself scrambling to celebrate Advent…which was especially challenging since I had no idea what Advent was (luckily my kind readers helped me out). I had to turn the page over on my already huge to-do list to now add “Get Advent wreath!”, then after thinking for a moment, “Figure out what Advent wreath is for” and, after more thought, “Figure out what Advent is for.”
Though I sincerely wanted to know more about this season, I felt burdened by having more to do. As if the Christmas season wasn’t already busy enough, if I were to observe Advent it would mean doing even more! So I prayed. I prayed a prayer of regret, expressing remorse that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to properly observe this season, asking God for help, and promising to try to do better next year.
Meanwhile, I had been working on the issue of anger. The topic had seemed to have come out of nowhere — I didn’t think I had a problem with being angry and it was never in my plan to work on it. Yet it kept coming up. I couldn’t set the issue aside, even though I kind of wanted to. I really felt that God was leading me to work on this right now, though I didn’t know why.
As I’ve chronicled, I came to realize that my anger was almost always the result of being anxious, which was always the result of not trusting God. I began trying hard to never allow myself to indulge in feelings of frustration and anxiety: whether my toddler threw a bad temper tantrum or all the pots and pans came cascading loudly out of the cabinet when I opened it or my neighbor stopped me to tell me a loooong story when I was in a hurry, I would seek peace by remembering that all I had to do was trust God. I worked hard at letting go of my plans, at not fixating on how these inconvenient events were derailing what I “had to” do (according to me).
I trusted that I would get it all done…as long as I accepted “it” as what God wanted me to do instead of what I wanted to do.
Then, this morning, I thought of how two days from now is the last Sunday of Advent, how it’s a shame that I let it slip by. I never did get around to making an Advent wreath with the kids, we didn’t do a Jesse tree or put up a little Christmas countdown calendar. I didn’t even read any of the things I’d earmarked as “good Advent reading.”
But as I’ve gone through my day (day five of a visit from my mother-in-law), I realized that something has changed — something big. I’m not stressed. Sure, I am occasionally tempted to be stressed when I see all the gifts I have to wrap or my mother-in-law shouts from the living room over the blaring television that my three-year-old spilled the Coke she was letting him drink. And I guess I have felt anxious here and there. But, for the most part, it has really worked to just turn to God with all anxiety, to say “I trust that you will work this out” every single time I start feeling stressed. I have made it through this Christmas season in a (mostly) peaceful state.
Last Sunday the priest at a friend’s church talked about Advent as a season of waiting, and that our goal should be to wait well. And as I walked through my choatic house, looking at all the areas that could be more clean, thinking of all the things that didn’t get done — we never did get a Christmas tree up, I forgot to get gifts for a couple of loved-ones, I didn’t make those Christmas cookies, I couldn’t even find time to decorate the house at all — I realized that I am actually at peace with all of this. So many things that I really wanted to do didn’t happen; but the only thing that really matters did happen: I trusted God. I had sort of hoped that God’s plan would involve me miraculously finding the time to make my house look like something out of Martha Stewart Magazine’s Christmas issue, to come across a bunch of extra money to get all those gifts I wanted to get, to take the kids for a portrait with Santa.
But none of that happened.
And I realized that, ironically, it is in the fact that none of these “important” things got done that I observed Advent after all. I put my trust in God, even at the expense of all my big plans. I was patient as I waited for him to show me the path forward, even though it was really tempting to elbow God aside and frantically rush around to “get things done!” I set aside my plans for his, and in the process gave my family the gift of a calm, happy mommy. I waited well.