Advent gets me every year. I prepare for it mentally and when December first arrives, I begin. I see it as a time of peace in an otherwise crazy time of year. I have, in years past, woke a few minutes earlier to read from my advent devotional in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This year that means upstairs by 4:15…have I mentioned how I am so not a morning person? This year I have a few new thoughts and plans to add in to Advent, and while I’ll keep some to myself, I thought I should get some out of my head and my heart and into the written world. It will be good for me to be still with these words as the season of waiting, of coming, gets pressed in on.
If you’ve been reading anything I’ve written recently you’ll know that I am “stuck” on this wild wandering, I can’t really get past it. Every book I pick up seems to dwell on a wanderer or living a true and wild life. Every conversation I have, every blog I read, every tee-shirt I wear seems to have something to do with these two concepts. It is so clear to me that there is deeper meaning in these two words, or rather in the one idea that I should live a truly adventurous life. I think I’ve been writing so much about it because I feel it is in opposition to the life I have, specifically to my life in Christ. I struggle to justify a self-willed (wild), rambling, consciously deeper existence with the life the church has told me I should live since I was a small girl. I have long felt as though two parts of my soul were in opposition to one another.
As I have been lost in this topic and reading more and more I feel like I may be winding on to a new path. One that I have gone by before and missed because it is so very narrow. I’m not sure of course, but I feel like this path will show me how to reconcile both aspects of my nature. I am nervous about setting my expectations too high (something I have always struggled with), and so earlier this morning I wrote down three simple things that I am going to strive toward in this Advent season. Three things that will be my focus and my goal, I have the ability to see these things through, they rely on no one else but God.
The first is to actually wander. I have a lack-of-plan that will help me with this. An idea of taking time to actually go for walks, go for drives, sit in the stillness and get mentally lost. This is something that I’ve come to through a lot of reading and soul searching. I need to roam for my innermost self to find peace. I will have to do this with my children in tow most days, and that has been a struggle for me to accept. This fact has actually kept me from wandering because I have felt they will interfere with the process somehow. What I’ve come to see, is that children have the inborn ability to amble, to stroll, to be distracted by the small and meaningful. This is, in fact, exactly what I’m after. So I have decided to invite them along for my wanderings when I am able, I hope to find some of the curiosity and creativeness I’ve lost by watching them while we walk. I believe that in the physical act of traipsing through fields and turning down side-roads I will find…perhaps not answers, perhaps not peace…something. It is so close I think I could simply reach out and it would be there.
The second is to whisper. I am a yeller. It’s true, I yell at my kids when I’ve lost my patience, when they are downstairs and I have a question, when they are about to touch the hot pan on the stove. I don’t know where the yelling started or where it comes from. I don’t remember either of my parents yelling when I was a child. I need to see if speaking softly brings me more calm (that seems like an ignorant thing to say, I mean, obviously.), but when I yell I feel like all of my frustration comes rushing out in my words and I then feel a little better. It is almost like throwing the anger out, of course that anger or frustration or impatience then lands on my kids or my husband and I know the words hurt. I have made connections between the softer voice and more space for the self-willed nature to roam about in my head. So I am making conscious effort beginning this day to use a much more quiet tone.
I realize you’re probably wondering how this ties into the wandering/wild thought process I’ve got going here. It’s difficult for me to explain, even to myself. The image that helps me comes from the animal world, how when animals are hunting-they are quiet. When animals are being hunted-they are quiet. When they are unsure of their surroundings-they don’t make a sound. If they are curious of some new thing in their environment-they begin investigating it very cautiously. This tells me that the response in most situations is to at least begin, without a sound. Breath will become more important, walking away (more wandering!) when realistic, taking self control over my wild desire to shout. This might be the most difficult aspect, but I am determined to make the effort.
The third piece of my personal puzzle is to wait in His presence. I have the same device problem as many in this day and age, but I mean more than simply putting away my phone. As an example; I was at the library with two of my kids recently, we were there for a short time and I had brought a book. Normally my kids will play and look at books and I’ll oversee their safety, it’s a good arrangement. Yesterday I sat down, opened my book, read two paragraphs and my three-year-old started crawling into my lap with five books calling, “read to me momma!”. I was annoyed at the adorableness of it all. I spend a lot of time with books in hand, reading to my children, I just wanted the next half of an hour to myself! I wanted to disappear into my book for thirty minutes in a place that was full of activity and stimulation for her, this didn’t seem to be asking too much. She wanted me though and so I needed to be present for her. I often need to set my own needs and desires aside to be fully present, to be in His presence.
How will this help me on my wild and wandering path? As that is my main goal in this Advent season I needed a way to bring it all together. By being present with the Lord first, then with my family and ultimately being more present with myself, I allow more head space for those wandering thoughts to take shape. There will be more fully-formed ideas and more mental trails followed to their ends. Less time spent browsing the internet leaves more time to discover what actually brings joy to my heart. Less time spent on Pinterest or Facebook will provide more time for wandering through this actual world and noticing it’s actual beauty, instead of the falsity of social media. By setting aside my plan of making a quick dinner so we can eat on time and get kids to bed at a reasonable hour, I’m able to spend that time making pizza with a tiny underfoot and then reading to my big kids later than I had planned. While I honestly didn’t really have much patience for this, it’s something I’m beginning to change. Providing time for my children to follow their own wild desires should be part of my own wildness, my own trekking toward peace.
Advent means “coming” in Latin. The coming of the Lord, of Christmas, is the obvious reason Christians remember this tradition annually. I’ll focus on this part of Advent every morning for the month of December because it brings a quietness into my heart. I’ll use that as my reminder to whisper. Devoting the stillness of my morning to this study of Advent will require sacrifices in my quiet time. There won’t be as many minutes for writing, for scrolling, for sleeping. This will be my reminder to be present with my people and with Him. Finally as I deliberately walk through the scriptures that bring me to Christ’s birth, I will be bound to deliberate wandering. As Mary and Joseph make their slow journey home, I will follow them, both on the pages of my Bible and in the wanderings of my heart. I need no further motivation.
I anticipate the Advent season every year. I prepare for it. This year, this day I choose it. The activity of Advent, as a verb. I will wait on His coming and in readying myself for that day I will wander, I will whisper, I will wait in His presence. This will be a turn down a narrower road for the better, I can feel it.