Advent, a quiet season of change

It’s been awhile since I’ve written, but I’ve been deep in thought this Advent. Many changes are coming to our family. Over the last nine years, you’ve watched as our children grew from tots and teens to adulthood. In May, Megan is marrying Robert. Brennan will graduate from college the same month, and Claire will graduate from high school. Our oldest daughter, Ashley, is working hard, but she doesn’t have any life changes to spring on me in May.–at least, I hope not.

The whole family at Thanksgiving!
The whole family at Thanksgiving! Sorry we cut off part of Bill’s head.

The whole family, including my mother and sister, were together for Thanksgiving, and I hope for a repeat Christmas Eve.

I know. It’s hard for me to believe too. With so many changes comes reflection, and I’ll be honest, I’m having a bit of a tough time. I’ve called my mother twice and cried.

Thank God for mothers everywhere.

scattered seeds, hoping they fell on good soil, but I was still surprised when my young saplings grew into mature flowers and trees. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but still….

A cold wind blows outside my window, where I watch Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal, and their friends, along with Mr. Squirrel, hog the bird feeder. In the center of my window next to the French doors is our Christmas tree. To stave off the winter blues, I also have a veritable garden in every window. Amaryllis and non-stinky paperwhites take top honors while the prettiest little white poinsettia also lights my way.

Today, I’ll get out the hyacinth vases, wash them and place the bulbs inside. I’ve had the hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator since last August. I still have tulips to plant outside, but I’m not feeling any enthusiasm for my task. Fall temperatures just wouldn’t come, and I got behind. Friday is supposed to be a beautiful day so I’ll plant them then. I intend to run up to church and plunk several more into the beds there. It will be a nice surprise come Easter. However, I also have plenty to do here at home to prepare for Christmas.

A mother’s work is never done.

If I remember to step outside the mad rush to get it all done, I feel such a sense of anticipation in the quiet season of Advent. As I wrap each gift and place it lovingly beneath the tree, I say a little prayer for each recipient. I hope they find peace and joy not overshadowed by the mad rush to get everything done.

In my faith, we don’t really celebrate Christmas until the big day, on the 25th of December. Then, our Christmas season goes on until the Baptism of the Lord mid-January. Some of my friends from church don’t even put up their trees until Christmas Eve. While I love that tradition, it isn’t practical for our family so I take a partial approach. We usually put up the tree around December 8. This year, I put up the tree and hung the stockings by the fire, but I was more restrained than ever in my decorating. Partly because my children are mostly grown. Since I only have to please Bill and me, I did what I thought was beautiful, but not overwhelming. A lot of Christmas decorations stayed in the bedroom closet, and that’s okay.

My heart is also full of a quiet anticipation created by Advent’s gentle feasts. On December 8, we celebrated one of the most important, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding this holy day. People often think it’s about Jesus’ conception–the moment when the Angel Gabriel visited Mary–actually called the Annunciation–but December 8, is truly about Mary being conceived without sin. Our former pastor, Fr. Robert Wood, explained it in a way I, as a convert finally understood. He said–and I’m paraphrasing–that Mary, being the tabernacle for Christ, had to be without sin, or she couldn’t hold the glory of God within her womb. As a mother, I get chills every time I think about it. When he put it that way, I felt an indescribable joy in my heart, maybe a joy similar to what Elizabeth felt when John leaped in her womb at Mary’s visit. The entire season of Advent is all about journeys, fear and trepidation and finally, joy.

It’s a story that never gets old.

Mary, the Blessed Mother, and the Advent Wreath at St. Mary's Church in Guthrie, OK.
Mary, the Blessed Mother, and the Advent Wreath at St. Mary’s Church in Guthrie, OK.

As I journey through this quiet season, I keep thinking of Luke 2:19, “As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

I carry this thought with me as I shop, decorate, wrap, cook and bake. When I had young children, I raced through Advent trying to keep up with my schedule and theirs. Now, I have more time to reflect, and I’m focusing upon wonder, joy and gratitude. I need the season to be about more than gifts, parties and good cheer, although all of these are nice. I’m trying in the rush to take time to especially thank people working in the stores where I shop and in the restaurants where I eat.  Preparation for Christmas is a marathon for them that doesn’t end on the big day. When I wish others a Merry Christmas, it’s not a political statement. Instead, it’s a heartfelt expression of the happiness I feel even if tinged with a bit of melancholy too. Christmas and Advent foster big conflicting emotions for almost everyone I know.

Whatever your faith or worldview, I wish you the merriest of Christmases and the happiest of new years. If you’re celebrating a different holiday during this season, I wish you joy in that too.

Now, I’m off to help my mother decorate her home. Then, I’m going to sit back, have a cup of tea and ponder miracles great and small, like how four children became women and men in the span of a mother’s heartbeat.

I bet Jesus’ childhood went fast for Mary too.

35 Replies to “Advent, a quiet season of change”

  1. Lovely posting, Dee. Your family is beautiful and you should be very proud! I think we are more aware of life’s changes as Christmas approaches: My children have flown the nest, most of our grandchildren are teens already, and at this time of year I miss my mother enormously. I decorate my house (sparingly now) in anticipation of our family celebration here on Boxing Day (well, we are English.) A blessed time; a time to reflect. Wishing you a happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year. P. x

    1. Pam, I just love that you celebrate Boxing Day at your house. It’s a lovely tradition. Merry Christmas to you and your family. I’m so sorry you’re missing your mother. No one loves us like our mothers, do they? Much love and hugs from Oklahoma.~~Dee

  2. Loved your column today. I love reading all your columns; although this is the first time I’ve posted. The Blessed Mother alcove photo is so very similar to my hometown church of St. Anthony’s in Garden Plain, KS. Love the old beautiful churches. Thank you again.

    1. Hi Rochelle, I’m so glad you commented! It’s so nice to get comments because it feels like letters back and forth. I’m betting that your church in Kansas was designed by the same architect as ours in Guthrie. I say that because there are several churches in Kansas and Oklahoma that have the same design. Some were remodeled more after Vatican II than others. Ours is missing the communion rail for example. Thank you so much for your kind words and Merry Christmas!~~Dee

  3. Dee, I love, love, love that opening picture of you! It’s so happy, warm and inviting. Beautiful pictures of your family too 🙂 We too are set for major family changes, though of a more sad and difficult nature, and your warm post is helping me to see them with a more open heart. Merry Christmas and hugs, dear friend xxx

    1. Hi Michelle! Thank you so much. I’m so sorry about your sad family changes. We are going through some of those too with older family members. I’m glad my post helped a little. Merry Christmas darling girl!
      ~~Dee

  4. Well said…… Our second grandchild, a boy, was born this week, and we will officially meet him at Christmas….. “All is calm, all is bright”… Merry Christmas!

  5. Such a beautiful post Dee. Christmas changes as our children mature, and sometimes it can be hard to retain the spirit we once held about the season. We live away from our children, and all the family in fact. So Christmas doesn’t come to us, we have to go to it. Honestly, we know longer decorate our home. Since it sits empty over Christmas, we leave it bare. I’m not lacking in spirit this year, it just doesn’t come from the decorations for me. It comes instead when I see my grandchildren’s joy!

    1. Robin, thank you for sharing. Yes, everything changes. If everyone didn’t come here, I might not decorate either. Ha, who am I kidding? I’d still decorate at least with plants. I need something growing and green to get through the winter months. Merry Christmas. Enjoy your children and grandchildren.

  6. A lovely post, Dee. I think most mothers feel that twinge of loss as their children grow and fly out the door but the reward is in the flying back, time after time. Peace to you and yours during this holiday season.

  7. Merry Christmas to you too, Dee. In a few more years, like you, I’ll be watching my children leave the nest, and I’m already reevaluating my own goals and purpose as my role as family caretaker comes to an end. It’s bittersweet, for sure. Sometimes more bitter than sweet. 🙂

    1. Well Pam, you may be surprised. They still need more advice that you’d think especially in college. I spend a lot of time listening. 😉 I keep thinking I’ll get to travel more. That helps.

  8. You are a blessing to us all Dee. Here you remind us to focus on the reason for season through Advent. You express yourself so graciously. Thank you for taking the time to do so in this busy season. Love and blessings to you and your family.

  9. Merry Christmas, Dee! Our celebration starts at Thanksgiving and runs through Three Kings Day. Last year was very simple- with the last of a series of surgeries just before Christmas- the only decoration was the annual White House ornament from dear friends hung on the kitchen china cabinet. This year it is dying appliances and house repairs- which is so much better than dying people and bodies needing repairing. I might not have appreciated that when I was younger- so glad the good Lord decided I should stay awhile longer.

    1. Lydia, I’m glad to hear you’re having a much better health year in 2016. There’s nothing more important than faith, family and your healthy. We run through the Sunday after Three Kings I think. I’d have to look at my calendar again. I love the longer season. You get to sing more carols.

  10. I loved reading this – a beautiful advent message. The intermingling swirl of family, faith, and growing is indeed something to be treasured. And I enjoy reading about some of the different ways Christmas is celebrated. Thanks Dee for providing a beautiful quiet moment.

  11. Lovely Dee! Wishing you and your family all the best for a blessed holiday season. First one without my mother. Glad you can still pick up the phone and give your precious Mom a call.

    1. Hi Lynn, I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother. May your memories grow ever sweeter each year. I’m glad I can call her too. Went and helped her put up decorations today. She was happy.

  12. This is beautiful in every way, Dee. When I first opened your post and saw your lovely tree and decorations, I was impressed by your creativity and welcoming spirit. Scrolling down, I saw and read about your busy, handsome family. And then, most of all, I happily read your message of hope, inclusion, and joy. Thank you! Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you and yours!

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