Advent and Lent have often been important times of growth for me. Actually, every few years it appears that Lent and Easter bring some changes or shifts in my life. And there are habits that I have developed during these times that have shaped my journey in faith – for example, reading the Bible almost every night, which I did for years after committing to it one advent. During a particularly difficult time in the relationship between DH and I, I went to at least one mass during the week and often stations of the cross, all without ‘feeling’ anything – just emptiness and dryness – and then after Easter we had our crisis hit and had to decide if our future involved us staying together or parting company. (I’m really glad we stayed together! But it was very difficult at the time).
This Advent, I’ve been thinking of different things that keep me from living in love with God that I desire to do. There are so many of them – I don’t know what to ‘choose.’ I am trying to just stay open to guidance about this, to a push in some direction or another. I have decided to not have my daily glass of red wine during this time, just to live a bit more simply. Here are some things I think would help:
getting to bed at a regular, early hour every night so that I can have the energy to fulfil all the responsibilities I have with good humour, patience and love. (getting to bed on time is VERY difficult for me – I am a night owl by nature. But with a fairly early start, a full day of teaching 8-11 year olds, then home to take care of the kids on my own as hubby is away for work – I really need that sleep).
set aside a regular time every day to do my marking. I have SO much marking to do, and I never seem to get it done. My effort goes into basic survival for myself and the kids (lunches, brushing teeth etc) and planning for my day at school so that I can keep the students moving along – but it is also important that they get their work back with some idea of their progress, achievement, and what they need to focus on next. This is one of those things that becomes paralyzing to me, and then it only gets worse!
add some routines that will help keep my house more tidy (I am not naturally a tidy person, and being rather overwhelmed with daily life, plus the marking that is hanging over me, and still having boxes to unpack in a smaller space to live in … well, I can tolerate living in a cluttered space but it is much more peaceful when everything has a home and is put away.
One trap I often fall into, is wanting to do things because *I* am strong, because *I* can make commitments and keep them, because I am disciplined. In some of the reading I have been doing lately, it is resonating with me that it is not *me* that has this strength, but God. So I think that what really needs to happen here is that I need to pray for the grace to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my body(strength), and to love myself and everyone around me too. If I commit to this, then perhaps the choice for growth this Advent will become clear. I hope so because I am not feeling very clear at the moment!
One benefit from my terribly stressful year last year, is a kind of regular prayer time – not exactly like Benedictine monks (boy I would love to have a holiday or retreat in a monastary and participate in all of the prayers) – but something like that. For my morning commute, I have some prayer and meditation that I do always. On the way home, there is another theme to my prayers – this one I don’t always remember because I tend to turn on the radio to ramp down from my day. In the evenings I do a bit of reading right before bed time. This regular prayer routine is so important for me and a real blessing.
I hope to soon find out what I am being called to do this Advent, even as I continue to pray in my regular routine.