by Christine Sine
Last week I talked about Canadian thanksgiving and my usual practice of starting Advent a week early with a time of gratitude. This week I realized that I don’t just want a week of gratitude, I want a whole season. Canadian and American Thanksgiving frame this beautifully for me.
My decision was made after spending time this week reflecting on what is life draining and life gaining for me.
I wrote “say no to what is life draining” then began to list what came to mind.
- Turn my back on negative thinking about what I am doing, the future, the world around me. That only leads to despair and depression.
- Say no to Christmas shopping. I find it overwhelming and very draining to go to the mall in the weeks before Christmas. Even the steady stream of ads and hyped up incentives to buy more leave me feeling exhausted.
- Switch off the TV. Watching too much news about climate change, political upheaval and polarization, refugee crises, hurricanes devastation, overwhelms, and drain me leaving me feeling inadequate and useless.
- Say no to too much food and “Christmas cheer”. The guilt that goes with over eating and over consuming is not only draining but actually makes me want to eat more. Now is the time to choose which gatherings are life gaining and which are life draining and say no to the ones I don’t really want to go to anyway.
Then I started to think about what is life gaining for me. Part of what I realized is that there are solutions to my life draining challenging that are actually life gaining for me.
- Negative thinking can become hope and promise if I focus on where I see God’s love and joy breaking through – Instead of saying “I can’t do this” I can say “This is hard but I can persevere.” Or I can say “in the midst of this difficult challenge I am grateful for friends and family that support me.” We can also do what my friend Sue Duby taught me to do – look for the joy spots. Where is God already at work in the situation that drains me? How can I join in?
What could you do to focus away from negative thoughts onto the positive?
- Transform crises into opportunities for generosity. Watching the news about the devastation of Hurricane Michael and speaking to friends who work with refugees, the homeless and those at the margins in so many parts of the world spurs me to be generous with my giving and my volunteering over the next few months.
How could you respond to the crises in the world around you? Is God prompting you to be more generous to others with your time or resources?
- Plan for shows that are life giving. Over the last few months Tom and I have found an array of wonderful programs on Netflix that are very life gaining for us – stories about creativity about animals and the natural wonders of our world. It has transformed our TV watching. Thinking about the “shows” that are life gaining for me has also spurred me on to plan our Advent and Christmas watching – Messiah, Advent carols, Advent retreat. There are wonderful life gaining alternatives.
What entertainment over the Advent and Christmas season is life giving for you? How could you say no to those that are not?
- Plan parties that are life giving. By now you probably realize that I love to plan parties and the Advent season is one of my favorites to get ready for. Tom and I are already planning for Thanksgiving and I have just soak my fruit for the English style Christmas cake that is always so popular at our Open House. (yep it needs to soak for a month before I make the cake) I might even get my first batch of Scottish shortbread made as I get ready for the Celtic Fling at our church next weekend. These are all life giving preparations for the coming season.
Planing parties and cooking may not be life giving for you, but what are the ways that you like to bless others? What are the sharing activities you love to participate in or plan for over the Thanksgiving/Advent and Christmas season?
- Plan for a zero waste DIY Christmas. What if I aim at a zero waste Christmas this year, like Mustard Seed House community member Lisa de Rosa? Making Christmas gifts is life gaining for me. What about a totally home made gift Christmas this year? Not only is that a fun and life gaining thought, it is also an inspiring and joy filled one.
How could you reduce the stress of Christmas gift giving this year?
- Create spiritual practices that are life gaining. My focus on gratitude is just one of the new spiritual practices I am planning for the upcoming few months. Last week we painted leaves, horse chestnuts and pine cones at our community meal – a wonderful beginning to the season and something that made all of us slow down, reflect and relax. Meditation gardens are part of my delight at this season, becoming more and more a part of how I love to prepare for a new season. This week I am working on a gratitude garden around the theme “my cup overflows” (more about that next week) and I am already thinking about my Advent garden. Other practices enrich the season for me too – our annual Advent retreat is already planned for the first week of December and I have some new Advent images to use as I redecorate my sacred space for the season.
What are the practices that are life giving for you over the Thanksgiving/Advent and Christmas seasons? How can you make sure that you protect these practices?
The upcoming season is meant to be one of joy and celebration. Prayerfully consider ways that you could make this more of a focus in the coming month… and maybe you could join us for our retreat November 10th as a start .