Here, in the US, we are entering a week of reflection and gratitude, and this year I’m taking that a little more seriously. Some wait until December 31st to look back over their year, but I prefer to start a little early.
The past 11 months have been full of monumental change ~ in my life, my family and my friends. We are all different as a result… and it’s all good. Not one of us is less mature, less wise, less aware or less grateful. My circle has grown exponentially, and as a result, so has my worldview. As I’ve learned about others, I find I’ve learned even more about myself. Some lessons have been tougher than others. All are valuable and important.
Many of those lessons have resulted in a changed mind, changed beliefs, and changed behaviors (I promise, I’m working on them). It’s tough to take steps away from what you’ve been raised with. Away from the way your culture sees things and how you are expected to keep in step with those ideas.
Here’s the thing:
What we currently have, is a reflection of where we’ve been and what we believe. To change what we have, we must change who we are and share what we are learning with others. In order, then, to define my culture, I may need to shift my cultural allegiances or even walk away from things I’ve celebrated in the past.
As many in our country prepare to gather together to express thanks, I find the best way to express mine is to step back from the hustle and bustle, with my husband and my son, and reflect on all my blessings.
This is a new and different kind of “gathering in” for me.
I’m gathering in my little family, to renew and refresh our love and commitment for each other. We are spending some time on a true family vacation, not just “going away for the holiday.” We are talking about what we are grateful for, remembering what we like about each other, and celebrating the beauty of the family that God has made us to be. My son, sitting up on the kitchen bar doing some homework, just looked up and said “Mom, you know what I’m grateful for? You, Dad, that Shasta (our beagle) is in a good, safe place while we travel ~ and WiFi!” It’s the little things, right?
Fostering this kind of organic communication of gratitude is what I want my life to look like. This is why “gathering in” is different for me and my family. It helps us strip away the hype, the cultural noise and the expectations ~ and just be “us.” It aids in reminding us what is important, how we need to show up (for each other and the world around us) ~ with a grateful heart, ready to serve and share.
Part of renewing and recharging this week, includes setting my intentions for the rest of 2019 and preparing for 2020.
Next week is the first week of Advent. This is an important time of year for me, as a Christian, and for many years I’ve struggled to be present and focused on what I believe is the most important aspect of the season. I’ve had a hard time letting go of the desire to receive lots of presents. I LOVE giving and receiving gifts! For me, however, this has been a bit of a road hazard. There’s such a focus on it, and my greedy heart falls into this pothole annually.
This year, without the “traditional Thanksgiving,” I find myself seeing Christmas in a new light. I’m more open to, and ready for, Advent. I’m open to enjoy the spiritual pilgrimage of yearly celebrating “God with us.”
So this year, I choose to set my intention to focus on the season before me, giving and receiving simple gifts, and celebrating the beauty of what “God with us” means. This change in my thinking makes Advent seem more potent, more moving and more engaging.
In the future, it’s likely we will continue to incrementally step away from the things we no longer believe or can support. Instead of the usual harried pace, I plan to use all of December as a time of preparation ~ for my heart and mind to better focus on what is important, allowing the noise and clutter to fall away.
In this way, I hope to set the tone for beginning 2020 with a calm and settled mind, intent on making an impact on those around me ~ as a strong, courageous, patient and kind wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend.
As you “gather in” this week, I pray you find the space to express gratitude in ways that remind you of all your blessings. Some of those reminders will cause you to make changes, some will allow you to settle in. Either way, I hope you gain clarity. Use it to set your own intentions as you close 2019 and enter 2020.
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