What are you doing to keep yourself tethered to reality this Advent?

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I just got the first Christmas card of the season: a beautifully lit farmhouse nestled in a pristine snowy field.

It reminded me of a story I heard about farmers running a rope from the house to the barn when there’s the threat of a winter storm. That way they can safely check on the animals in the barn and make it back to the house without getting lost in the blizzard.

I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I want to believe it.

Like the farmer in a blizzard, I want to have the assurance that I am doing the right thing, that in my fumbling blind way, I am following the path that God has laid out for me.

Sometimes I get lost in the storm that is the electronic assault on my senses. I’m sure you experience it, too. All the noise from Facebook and Twitter…the talking heads on TV…the Christmas music in the stores.

What does it all mean?

At the end of the day I’m left with the rush of sound in my ears but unable to distinguish the good from the bad. The Grinch in his green tights looks like Buddy the Elf in his green tights, and why is that kid shooting himself in the eye again?

Although I admit the rest of the year can be a madhouse for me, I find this time of year, what society wants to keep calling the Christmas Season, to be the most trying part of the year.

I struggle with finding an appropriate way to celebrate and enjoy Advent, and give attention to the spiritual preparation I need, while still enjoying the celebratory preparations for Christmas.

As a wife and mother, I know the house isn’t going to magically appear decorated on Christmas morning. There’s a lot to prepare for that.

But the truth is, Christmas is going to be here, whether or not the tree has all the trimmings, or I remember to buy the cranberries, or I bake the right kind of cookies.

The real question is whether I can put my spiritual needs before my material ones.

Like those farmers, I need something to keep me on a safe path, a sane path that will lead me back home.  I need something that will keep me tethered safely in the storm of distractions.

I’ve found that the best way to do that is to realign my expectations. I don’t have the time, energy, or resources to put on a Christmas display like in the movies. That’s not real.

Instead, I’ve focused on a balanced approach for my spiritual as well as material goals:

  • I try to give the house a good, deep cleaning in preparation for the decorations and guests, so I make sure I get to confession early in the Advent season, too.
  • I slowly, with no pressure to be done in one fell swoop, start to decorate the house.
  • I eliminated Christmas cards many years ago because it was too stressful, but now that the kids are grown, I’ve bought a box to send. Instead of setting aside a couple of hours to make sure I get everyone on my list, I fill out one or two at a time when I want to relax and take a break. Instead of laboring over a profound message, I offer a prayer for the friends or family as I sign and address the card. Better for me. Better for them. And the bonus? If I’m not done by Christmas, it’ll still be Christmas season when they get it at the end of December!

What are you doing to keep yourself tethered to reality this Advent?

Copyright 2012 María Morera Johnson

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About Author

Maria Morera Johnson, author of My Badass Book of Saints: Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Live and Super Girls and Halos: My Companions on the Quest for Truth, Justice, and Heroic Virtue, writes about all the things that she loves. A cradle Catholic, she struggles with living in the world but not being of it, and blogs about those successes and failures, too.

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