Archive for December, 2014

We are on the countdown to the big moment, the BIG SHEW, the Birth to end all BIRTHS!  Yes!  We are 2 days away from the birth.  We gather on the 24th to celebrate the coming, and yet, not nearly as many gather to celebrate the actual birth…something which has puzzled me for a long time.

I have not done any baking for festive cooking this year.  I haven’t mailed any Christmas cards this year.  There are some decorations at the rectory, but not many.  I haven’t composed a Christmas letter…and I’m not likely going to.  Why?

Because there is more “stuff” to do then there is time.  And this year, for the first time ever, I am not skimping on my sleep.  Traditionally, every year, I get sick after Christmas.  Partly because I don’t eat properly, I don’t exercise properly or look after myself properly, and I certainly don’t sleep properly.  This year I have been mindful in the invitations I accept so I can factor in proper sleep.

Maybe that makes me sound like an old woman, and if so, I’m okay with that.  Age is a relative term.  I’d like to stay upright through this season and into 2015.  So far, so good.

One of the things I have missed doing is yoga stretches.  I’m not the slightest bit graceful, nor do I pretend to be, but when I stretch out on the yoga mat and focus on breathing, I feel invincible.  I feel like I can take on the world and do anything. And usually I roll up my mat, put it back in the carry bag and go back to work, feeling focussed and alive.

As a society I don’t believe we put enough energy into our breathing.  I know for myself, when I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed I find my breathing to be shallow and rapid.  When I become mindful of my breathing, I can focus better, think more clearly and make healthier choices for my life and those around me.

These next few days will be pressure filled.  The crazy illusion that if I preach my best homily ever I will single-handedly bring folks back to Church.  That one good homily will fill our little Church to the rafters.  It’s not true.  But the pressure remains.  I have promised myself that I will put one foot in front of the other.  I will take at least one short walk a day.  I will eat healthy and save room for fun stuff.  I will nap if time allows, and I will focus on my breath as often as possible.

Because without breath, we have nothing.  When the earthling was formed, God breathed life into its nostrils and humanity began.  Breath is essential, without it we have nothing.  Without it we die.  So from now on I will focus on life-giving breath, on slowing my breathing and focussing on life.

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This past couple of weeks has been nothing short of chaos.  Trying to get bulletins together, work on homilies, home communions, home visits, catching up with friends, scheduling medical appointments and surgical consultations.  And then there’s time needed for sleep.

This morning I drove to a community nearly an hour away.  I met a friend I had not seen in 10 years.  I wasn’t sure she would recognise me or that I would recognise her.  I was 15 minutes early and as I walked into the restaurant I saw her beautiful smile.  We hugged, she cried (she’s a crier) and were a flurry of hands and excited words…”been so long”…”how I’ve missed you”…”you look so good”…the poor server couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

We ordered our lunch, and continued talking. Yes, we did manage to eat while the food was hot, but more importantly, we reconnected, in a place where it seems we just pressed pause.  There was no awkwardness, there was no hesitation, we were simply two friends reconnecting after a decade.  Before we parted we set a date to meet again, in two months.  And on air I drove home. Through construction, ignorant drivers, road-blocks…none of it mattered.  Not even the migraine that had been plaguing me most of the day.

I got home and looked at the still unfinished pile of stuff on my dining room table.  And I turned my back on it.  I’m not afraid if the pile stays untouched.  I met my daughter-by-marriage as she got off the school bus and she chatted in 3 word sentences about her day.  “Didn’t do much”…”no homework, yeah!”…”where is Christmas?”  Every year my in-laws get together for a family Christmas.

Usually it’s held the first Saturday or Sunday in December, to coincide with Dutch Christmas and the coming of St. Nicholas and Black Peter.  I was in Florida so it has been rescheduled to this Sunday afternoon.  This Sunday is Advent IV.  There’s still so much to get ready for Christmas Eve.  But it will wait – I will not be afraid.

I went for a nap that ended up being 2 1/2 hours long.  My headache is not gone, but is much better. I decided to fold the bulletins for 4, 7, 11 pm Christmas Eve, for Christmas Day, our Boxing Day baptism and Christmas I.  They are folded and at the Church.  For the first time ever, I came to Church in my pajamas.  Now granted, I wear PJ’s for the Pajama Mass every Christmas Eve at 4:00, but tonight I am here with bedhead, in a ratty old sweatshirt and flannel PJ bottoms.  And I’m not afraid.

I changed the sign outside and used the short-form Xmas.  I know I’ll get at least one message on the Church phone that I have done wrong.  But I am not afraid.

Sensing a pattern here?

I wrote my article for the local paper today that will be published on Tuesday as Wednesday, the usual publication day, is Christmas Eve.  In the article I talked about the appearance of angels and how they always say “be not afraid” to whomever they encounter.  If you think about it, it makes sense.  The angels that appeared in scripture were grown men, with wings, suspended.  THAT would be terrifying!

Angels delivered messages, not all of them good.  The angels in the Christmas story appeared first to Mary to tell her she would conceive a bear a son who would be the Messiah.  They appeared to Joseph to tell him the Mary’s baby was God’s and he would raise the child as his own. They appeared then to the Shepherds, announcing the amazing arrival of the newborn baby who would save the world!  And so they ran to see this remarkable thing that had happened.

Angels appear in both the old and new testaments.  Arguably, the angels heralding the arrival of the Messiah are the most memorable.  And as they trumpeted glad tidings, and called on their choir, they said simply “Be not afraid”.

So with all the busy-ness of this season, my desk is a mess and so is my office.  I will not be afraid.  The living room and dining room at home look like a fur covered bomb went off…and I will not be afraid.

There will be time for cleaning, but there will also be time for friends and family.  And together, unafraid, we will heed the words of the angels who gathered to announce the arrival.  The angels never said “clean your house first”, they said “be not afraid, I’ve got something awesome for you to see!”

So be it.

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