I’m embracing these days as they shorten, darken in anticipation of the winter solstice and the certain, subsequent lengthening, brightening. I find such comfort and joy in these predictable earthly rhythms that encourage human ritual.
Nature is my faith.
Lately, I’ve observed a lot of thought and talk about people feeling the push, the rush, the expense and undesirable toll of this season. Indeed, that flurry is readily available for the taking. And, yes, sometimes it’s hard to resist things, even when we know they don’t make us feel good. I’m inspired to remind myself and anyone who might want or need to hear it: the ceremony, feeling and spirit of this season are what we wish it to be. We are not beholden to another’s path or any habit we dislike. Here’s the nugget of truth and joy: we get to choose our reason for the season.
Positive Intention is my faith.
In our home, now, we honor time together and ritualize our days with love. We pay attention to nature and get outside a lot. We embrace cheer, spirit, lore and story. We create with our hands, give with our hearts, notice the dwindling light, make warm food, read books. We feel the bigness of the universe and the coziness of us. We visit Santa at the mall. We sled, have neighbors over for hot cocoa. We decorate. We host lots of family over Christmas where I take my role in a cozy, inviting, inclusive home very seriously. We enjoy activities and gifts during the advent weeks.
Family is my faith.
One of my sewists lives near a thrift store so I often stop there when swapping items with her. Last week, chilling cold and pressing gray. I was at the thrift store and noticed several people who were hanging out – clearly to keep warm, not to shop. A woman was talking to the cashier about a hat she’d accidentally tossed into her donation pile that morning. “It was black,” she said. And then “That’s it!” pointing at a blue a green striped beanie. The employee asked her to clarify. She staggered, reformed her story and said she had bought that hat, didn’t want it anymore and was owed $4 which was the cost of the gloves in her hand. “Could I just exchange?” she asked.
The staff tried to believe her story but it could’t happen and the woman turned to leave. I caught her at the door and offered to buy the gloves. She said yes and pulled her hands from her pockets to show the cold, red, dry map indicating at least 75 years of life. She held a clear plastic bag holding a quarter and a nickel. The moment her smiling eyes met mine I felt that thing humans feel when we slow and notice we are the made up of the same stuff, when our heartbeats combine to form a delicate and solid understanding: we are kin.
We talked a bit but, overall, it was a pretty brief exchange, one that I recounted to my husband later that night. It was 12 degrees. As often happens, our daughters heard bits and asked questions. It led to a good conversation about giving and loving, without condition or return or judgement.
Hours later Margot tucked her head under my arm and pressed her nose into into the side of my ribcage, “I don’t like stories like that one you told about the lady with cold hands because I worry about her. It makes me sad.”
I told my dear girl to hang on to that worry, to never harden against it. I told her that tender impulse is her compass telling her what is worthy of her worry and reaction. I reminded myself of the very same thing, which is often how it goes for me in parenting — what I tell my kids, I tell myself.
Empathy is my faith.
I have been reading a bit about the history and meaning of advent. It comes from the Latin word adventus or ad-venio which means coming or to come to. It is a prayerful preparatory season. I have been uncomfortable calling what we do ‘advent’ because our ‘prayerful preparatory season’ looks different than many others. But then I realized it really doesn’t look different. Plus, we sometimes don’t need to overthink fun tradition.
Ordinary Ritual is my faith.
For our advent, we have a little scavenger hunt every day for several weeks. We usually start the calendar sometime after Thanksgiving and end the calendar on solstice but it’s flexible. It’s a simple, (mostly) daily occurrence that my daughters love so much.
I try to make the daily practice an event that results in time together. Sometimes it’s a gift and sometimes it’s an activity. I’d share what we have planned but I am not that kind of mama (A planner, that is. A sharer, yes I am).
Our sweet collection is growing; these books only come out once a year – from when we set up our tree, which always happens the weekend after Ruby’s birthday, until the New Year. This year, as we hiked on our friend’s snowy land to cut our tree, Margot said, “My favorite thing we do today is getting out our books and reading them by the fire!” I swelled with happiness, remembering the childhood anticipation I felt for the small, seasonal rituals my parents curated for my brother and me.
We read last year’s book first: The Tomtes’ Christmas Porridge* by Sven Nordqvist. I read my words on the inside cover and Ruby started crying. Surprised, I asked what was making her upset. She turned to Margot and me with big, blue watery eyes. “It’s hard to explain, mama. But sometimes when something makes me really happy, I cry.” I get it girl. Sorry: you may have inherited a lifetime of welling up when you’d rather not.
Feeling is my faith.
I plan to make nightgowns for the kids to open on solstice. (I will use this sweet pattern). One day we will share hot cocoa by the fire after school, one day we will go downtown and ride the carousel, one day we will play Crazy 8s, one day we will make cookies, one day we will make a bonfire in the field. And I’ll probably plan something sparkly because Ruby earnestly told me, “Mommy I’m serious. Sparkles are my life. I need sparkles.” And I’m not sure how to accommodate Margot’s declaration: “I have two wishes today. One: to buy everything I want – but for free – at H&M with Phoebe. And, two: to have Elsa’s powers to build ice castles whenever I want.”
Believing is my faith.
A few days ago, as I drove home from the market where I purchased tea, ginger, cayenne, a new neti pot (holy head cold), I saw two people sitting together on a downtown sidewalk without gloves holding a sign that read anything helps. I heard the calling and I plan to include my kids in efforts to share warmth.
Doing is my faith.
I asked Margot if she’d consider turning 6 instead of 8 next Friday. She scowled and said, “Mooooom, I just can’t help it! I am growing up. Before you know it I will be a teenager and then a colleger.”
That night the girls were overcome with giggles at bedtime. I opened their door to be the heavy but I am no good at that so I started laughing with them. Together they rolled off the bottom bunk bed and took position on me, each sitting on a foot, arms around my calves. Margot feverishly yelled “I am going to stay here until you die! Because I want to be with you forever!” I smiled and daydreamed of teenagers wrapped around my legs, collegers sitting on my feet in a fit of giggles, as sentimental mamas do.
Margot’s right with her before you know it statement. And, the reality is there are so many stories, seasons, ebbs between now and then. When the days come that I am not included in their giggle antics, when my feet are free to walk about without kids dangling, when forever feels different. I trust that will be a sweet spot too.
Now is my faith.
* For ease in sharing our books, I linked to Amazon but I also encourage purchasing books from your local bookstore. ♥