Finding Silence in the Chaos

So, it’s the night before Christmas; only a few hours of it left. Finally, a small silence is descending upon the house. Not a complete silence, no, never. But, for the next, oh, HOUR, it’s as quiet as it’s been in weeks. {Although, realistically, by the time I post, that hour will be GONE baby GONE.}

The small boys have finally fallen to sleep; though I have to wake them in an hour to get to midnight Mass. Even so, I’ll take it. Two of the girls have fallen into drowsy snooze, another is doing hair and the eldest is quietly playing piano. Coffeedoc is resting a bit, chilling before the last big push of Advent: again, that beautiful rigorous glorious midnight Mass. Granpa G is downstairs, snoozing no doubt. Booboo, well, he’s either still out sitting with his sweet girlfriend or he’s gone down to play some music himself. I have 20 minutes before I need to change, myself, and then launch the troops.

Amidst all this hustle and bustle…oh, who am I kidding, amidst the bedlam and wild careening boys and snapping moody girls and the hoisting and toting and then clanging and speeding of time and bodies and lists and on and on…I’ve found myself wishing for that silence of Advent. Wondering where it went and how to find it. I’ve been craving that, but simply yearning for ANY kind of silence, inner, outer, body, mind, soul. I have to admit, I’ve despaired a bit, here and there, of finding it this season.

But as we wrap up Advent, I am rethinking that despair of missing it somehow. I’ve changed my mind a bit. I think that I have inadvertantly found that deep, that silent part of Advent. Over the past few days, this past week especially, the conversations I’ve had with good friends, my kids, my dear Tom, have struck me. It took me some stewing over it to parse out the why of it. But, what I’ve found in the moods and tears and needs that I’ve listened to, see, felt, held, soothed, paced about, vented about, jangled through my own self, prayed about…is that it’s in there still; that deep after all.

This is a kind of tough transitional Christmas here in our house due to big changes; to Chris being absent. Thus, the whole traditional everything….isn’t. It’s hard to polish up a tradition when one big piece of it is missing. It’s easy to hang onto what it WAS and what it seems it should/must be. But, the very challenging trick is to accept that it’s morphing into something slightly new, slightly different, yet essentially the same. And this year, well, this year there is some twinge of sadness over that. Hard to do. And it seems that Advent isn’t supposed to be about the blues or grief or fussing or worry or hating change; at the same time it all seems too loud, too busy, too jangly, too much, and somehow so very much not enough.

But that’s it! Right there. That’s the whole of it, in a way, isn’t it?

Advent isn’t Christmas. Not yet.

Advent is that whole wait and prep for Christmas. It’s that wait for a messiah. To save us/me. And so it only makes sense to my old brain that if that is so, then yeah, Advent might be a boatload of work and trying to make mountains move and fail and fuss and kvetch and whinge on and on and worry and just be out of sorts. I mean, the Virgin Mary had to ride a donkey into Bethlehem as she was beginning labor! Talk about having a hard time maintaining the cheerful can-do attitude! Ya think she wasn’t sad and fretting and just wanted to get off the road and settle? Um, I betcha. Kinda like Advent. Maybe, just maybe, we are supposed to recognize that our lives (ok, me, mine) here are not, cannot be, just so glitzy blingy perfect in every way no matter how many bows we stick on them and no matter how many hours sitting in traffic we log. Maybe, just maybe, we are supposed to see it, live it, do the physical bodily weary work of it so that we can cry out with joy when God descends to JOIN us and come and live with us….to save us from our selves. Maybe one of the key parts of Advent is really the process of it. Even in the midst of the wrapping the cutting the taping the labels the cookies the dishes the finding jackets and gloves and retying shoes…we actually, by doing the job in front of us, are preparing our hearts to rejoice, finally, fully, for real, at the birth of a savior.

Well, I guess that maybe that under all those tasks and sighs and clanging and banging….there is a deep work that is happening. And it’s silent, so easy to overlook. But, I really think it’s there. I’m counting on it.

And now, I am going to go dress for Mass, wake my kids, nudge them as they grump through the dressing and driving, smile at Tom when they fall asleep in the pew and then bring them back home and tuck them in bed. Because, I think I’ve found the silence I was craving. It was there all the time. Deep and still under it all. Which means I’m almost ready to sing. Merry Christmas…almost……

Almost, Almost…Hurry…

It’s almost here!  I think I’ve put this up, last year or before, but this is my soundtrack for today and tomorrow, so I’m loading it here too.

Knot those bows, ice those cookies, drink the nog or grog…..Christmas is almost, almost here!

Advent is here! Happy New Year!

It’s the first day of Advent, which means of course that it’s the first day of the new year – the new liturgical year, I mean.

So, it’s an exciting day, liturgically speaking!  Not quite the kind accompanied by fireworks and excessive alcohol….better.

We prayed with the new missal at Mass today…and, frankly, I was kinda expecting a really bumbling stumbling through it.  I thought it was sound and feel all awkward and even a little weird.  You know, old dog, new tricks and all…me.  But it wasn’t! It didn’t feel so at all.  It was actually  kind of lovely.  It is a good new change, to more sacred language.  Also, there was just a great attention, and intention to the prayers, mine at least, probably  and particularly because it’s new and thus cannot fall into habit.  Today required more FOCUS than many days.  Ok, see, I admit it, I am possibly the most distractible person you could find.  And that’s saying something as I have several kids with bona fide ADHD…so, really, I know from distraction!  (And yeah, save the flaming on the adhd topic….really dated debates there; been there, done that….).  

Anyhow, so it’s a really quietly lovely day. My Jon is heading back up to college to finish off his semester, but he’ll be home again soon, happily.  It’s my Goddaughter’s birthday as well, happy bday  Livie!  It’s a quiet full Sunday.  We have new really  beautiful prayer and responses to savor.  We have a new liturgical year to start all fresh and focused.  And, of course, last in this post but not least, it’s the first day of Advent.  I’m pulling out my Advent candles and my celtic table wreath in prep for dinner, when we will light the first long purple taper.  We have set out on our walk toward Bethlehem, a road that is mostly interior though it has lovely exterior sights to see and ruts to avoid.

So, we begin.  Happy New Year, walk with me, I love the company….

photo source

The advent of Advent

Advent begins tomorrow!

It feels early this year, but I suppose that can’t be.  Once again, it’s sorta snuck up on me and I’m feeling all behind before I even begin.  Yikes.  So, to that end, today I’m going to mindfully try to prep my interior self to accept my inevitable winding sloppy stumble through this season of Advent.  By which I mean, I already KNOW I’m not gonna be as prepped as I hoped to be.  I do NOT have the christmas list finished, heck, it’s not even begun…I”m still in a minor denial of it and a squinting gaze of “Hmmm, how best to tackle this, this year?”   This year is a bit untethered; there are changes this year inside and out.  We are in the midst of a noticeable, keenly observed, evolution (Which is to say that we all are in the midst of the unmarked evolution, all the time, right? But this  year, I’m seeing  feeling marking it).

So, here’s what I know:  The big: in our Church we go to new, more precise, liturgical phrasing and a revamp of the missal, the liturgy of the Mass in order to better direct our hearts souls and prayer vertically – toward the holy, the divine.  It will increase our awareness of the sacred, right here, right now, and beyond. How exciting is that?  I’m sure a whole ‘nother post to come on that one, it’s that big.

The other big: my eldest is having his first Christmas with his “new family:” his Dominican family.  And while I might leak a tear here and there, and try to push (with fluctuating success) the blues that threaten to buffet me from missing him….I want him to have a really happy holiday season and just relish his new traditions.  I want him to savor the richness and goodness in these beautiful new traditions, to laugh at the quirks of his new family/companions, and to really enjoy and appreciate these holidays.  I think he did for Thanksgiving, I heard it in his voice and it made me very happy and answered my simple but fervent prayer of the day.  I want only the same for him for Christmas and Advent…and that’s the same as I claimed for myself when I started out on my own and began my own, now much loved, holiday traditions.

The smaller, but also so important: I want to accept my inevitable inability to “do it all” and not let that tank my holiday happy before it even settles in.  I want to TRY to get most of it sort of figured out and/or taken care of this coming week (Bwah ha ha ha! – hey a gal can dream!) and then I want to slow down (My friend Zoe, she inspires me).  I want to read and be PRESENT and just soak in the richness of this season.  I fail every year.  But, hope springs eternal and I’m hoping, once again.

So the stuff:

  • I will link if I can to the UCSSB Advent Calendar, daily, because it’s a goodie and  has other cool links to follow too.
  •  You know that there will be a glut of Catholic stuff, great saint feasts this month and just because golly, it’s Advent and that’s what it’s all about, right?  That’s why this season is so great!
  • I have some adoption updates and managing through the season, the landmines, kind of thoughts rattling around in my head.
  • I have life in general posts, and lets not forget this month/season begins the bithday-palooza calendar in my house, so you’ll be seeing a bunch of bday posts.
  • I have to put up wreaths, but not too soon as we keep them up til Candlemass
  • Need to help Coffeedoc find a fir tree to cut that is LESS than three hours drive away, as the kids are in mutiny regarding the schlep drive….possibly impossible
  • Need to get our Advent candles ready – done (hooray, a first!)

So you see, I have a lot of stuff rattling around in my head.  And instead of waiting to come up with profound or pithy posts, I think the  only way for me to simply and mindfully wend my way through this season is, oddly enough, to sort it out through typing and posting.  Only then, perhaps will I be able to declutter my brain and find the silence and slow there too.  So, thanks in advance for enduring if you will.

last year's school Christmas play

It’s the advent of Advent.  I love this season, not for the surface, but for the deep.   Exciting times ahead!

Last year.

>O Clavis David


O Clavis David
O Key of David

“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.”

>O Radix Jesse


O Radix Jesse
O Root of Jesse

O Root of Jesse,  you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

>O Sapientia


Raphael, “Wisdom”
O Sapientia {O Wisdom}

O WISDOM, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly:

COME , and teach us the way of prudence. Amen. 

>Pondering the season: Music

>I have much pondering in my  heart this season.
But now and again, I hear this song on the radio and it pulls me from the core.
This song is Christmas and Advent for me; especially when it is played on our piano in the living room by my eldest, Chris.

Music is so evocative, especially in this rich season.
This one brings back memories of the Snoopy Christmas Special as a kid {yes, I did just date myself again, and yes we did wait ALL YEAR to see those specials}.
But it also conjures up many memories of my family here in our home over these years.
Now I know what Christmas songs my kids, especially Little Man, like (because he sings it loud and often…and lets just say, I’ll let you guess which one is top o’ the charts: involving jingles and a fat man smelling).
What Christmas songs are “IT” for you?

>Feast of St. Nick.


Yeah, it is: the real one.

I love learning about him, and thinking about him.  And when my littles ask me, “Mom, do you believe in Santa?” I can say, with truth, “Yes, I do, Saint Nick!”  Now, if you want to get all snippy and say it’s misleading, go ahead.  But I’m not gonna listen too closely, because I think it’s a fun tradition and teaches our kids to be selfless – at least a tad bit more maybe – and frankly, because Saint Nicholas IS real.  And yes, I do then launch into a conversation, a quick one, about the real St. Nicholas.

There are fun traditions with this feast, most common is leaving a shoe by your bedroom door and filling it with candy.  Not that I’ve done, ever, that tradition…because I am not organized enough to remember it in time to do it.  But I love the idea of it, and  maybe someday, I might just get it together enough to make it happen.  Hey, it could happen….really!

Collect for the Feast of Saint Nicholas

O God, Who didst adorn blessed Nicholas,

the bishop, with miracles unnumbered,

grant, we beseech Thee, that by his merits

and prayer we may be delivered from the

fire of hell. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Happy Feast of St. Nicholas! 
Have a piece of candy…ok I will on your behalf!

>Tis the season….enjoy the beat!

>It’s the middle of Hanukkah, of course.

And it’s a beautiful season in and of itself – the traditional festival of the miracle of candle oil by our big brothers in matters of religion, the Jewish Faith. {By this I mean that of course our Catholic faith is derived out of the Jewish faith, they are truly our big brothers and so many of our rituals and customs have origins in theirs. This is why so many of those traditions call to us, to me, and pull at us deeply.  They call to our selves.}

Anyhow, this is a fun video, you might have seen it already but it’s perfect for Hanukkah.  It’s about the Maccabee’s of course, one of the great stories in the bible and this is a fun reminder of the richness of the season.

Enjoy! Happy Hanukkah!

{h/t to Julie of Happy Catholic!}

>Advent: doing and undoing

>So, it’s Advent.
Lots of folks will say, “It’s Christmas time!”  Well, kinda…sorta.  But not really. Not yet.
The newspapers and commercials wanna shout it at ya.  They want you to get all up in a frenzy of “get it, buy it, wrap it, give it.”  But first, the most important prep is interior.  Really.
As I try to prepare my home and kids for Christmas, for Christ-Mass, I need to first prepare my hard broken heart.  And if I can walk through this season mindfully, I can have my actions in prepping our home and kids be a real and active prayer.

Of course that means only if I can do it without stepping into that whirling dervish mode of christmas frenzy…complete with glassy stares in stores, aching feet, and griping  mouth.

That is my goal.
I usually fail.
Ok, ok, I have always failed.  Every year.
But, hope is eternal, right? I love that about hope, don’t you??

 My sweet Hannah, long ago, but still adorable.  No I’m not at all biased either!

I have everything working against succeeding once again: crazy busy school schedules and activities for three different schools (four if you count the college boys), eight birthdays in this next month (four of them my own children, the other my dad, sis, etc), and oh yeah, the usual everyday crazies of doc appointments and laundry and, oh, cooking dinner and such. 

But even so, I want to slow it down.  Simplify.
I need to prepare myself to really be ready this Christmas. 
I need to prepare my stony selfish heart to be ready to set myself aside and welcome Christ, in the distressing disguise of the littlest among us (even in my children, whoa)

Little Sarahbird, tiny adorable girl practicing a Christmas pirouette long ago

I need to do this preparation so I will truly be able to rejoice.  No, not to rejoice that the last present is wrapped and the cookies cut out and the sinks of dishes done (well, maybe a little bit)…but instead to rejoice at the Incarnation, the mind blowing condescension of God himself to come to me.   Who’da thunk it?

So, this season is actually something of a penitential season, officially. (Easy jokes there, I know, of course it is: office parties, secret santas, shopping malls….let’s talk penitential!).
But it’s a season to let go of ourselves {Ok, myself} so we can welcome Himself.

So I have a New Year Resolution, Catholic Version: I will be trying to pray the morning and evening or night prayers, part of the Liturgy of the Hours, daily.  {And yes, I’m putting this up so I’ll feel more accountable….I’m lazy like that.}
It helps ground me. It helps me breathe.  Too often I set it aside.  It gets dropped in the ordinary hectic squoosh of a given day, in my tired selfish desire to just drop into bed or surf the net if I find a moment.  So, this will have to be an intentional action.  Better than exercise even! It also connects me to my Chris, who is much better than I am about being regular and steady with this.  One more incentive for me, as if the Incarnation and prepping for it isn’t enough.  Gads. 

Anyhow, that’s my main Advent effort, or resolution, if you will.  Otherwise I will be calmly (um, yeah, really…..) trying to wrap up a simpler Christmas during this week or so and then being able to be present, really try to be present to the season, the kids, and the anticipation of Christmas.

We will light our Advent Candle/wreath every night for dinner.  I love this too. It’s a pause, only a moment, really, but it’s a pause, a short held breath at the end of a busy day.  This is a nightly reminder to come together, to slow and be present…to each other but also to the goodness of this season.  To stop and look and see each other, instead of only the whirling tasks and to do’s.
We will slowly add a few Christmas items as we get closer and closer to the real Christmas season, December 24th; a nativity set here and there, wreaths, later, a tree.   It will bring that Incarnation closer in to our hearts and home and family as we wait together in Advent.
We will hopefully find those mindful moments together as we step toward Christmas and the evenings lengthen and chill, in the warmth of us around the table and in the flickering light of the candles at dinner.

It’s Advent.
It’s a time that we are pushed to whirl and twirl and spin ourselves dizzy with anticipation and preparation.
But, it’s Advent.
And it’s a time to try to still and slow and prepare and savor the quiet quickening of our hearts in anticipation and the most amazing moment, ever, almost upon us.
I love Advent.

>Happy New Year! Advent

>So, one day late, Happy New Year!!
It’s the liturgical new year.
The Church’s New Year, yesterday, officially (ok, vespers Saturday night).
We are in the first season of the new year: Advent.
I was going to post this yesterday but it was a busy day…….so much for resolutions, even in the liturgical  year.  Awfully similar to the secular new year resolutions.  But as with those, I can still begin again.

I love Advent. I really do. It it the time to prepare our hearts and souls and minds for the Incarnation, the coming of Christ to this hard broken beautiful world.  We get these four weeks, punctuated by four Sundays, to prepare in body and  mind and heart – in action and prayer – for our broken beautiful personal world to be ready to welcome Christ, as one of us, come to us, because that is the only way to truly reach us.  The biggest of gifts, come to us.  Even to me.

Another day, another post is for the doing of Advent.  Or the undoing of Advent, perhaps.  More later.  For now, this is best I think:

Advent begins. Not Christmas, not yet.  The preparation of ourselves for Christmas.  The expectation, the anticipation, the quieting of waiting.  I love Advent.

>The waiting begins. Advent.

This blog is about nothing if not waiting.
Waiting is one of the very worst skills of mine; by which I mean, I stink at waiting.
I am wretched at waiting because I have no patience.
So, of course I have had to wait many times, and surely will continue to.
And it is surely the reason I have eight children.
I have waited for many things and people over the years.
Sometimes I fall into the huge trap of “wishing away my life” (as they say here in the south) by the way I wait.
It’s true.
I have done that far too much, far too often.
I suspect I’ve lost years.

I have waited impatiently, filled with busyness, to finish college.
To get into grad school and out again.
Waited for Coffeedoc to finish med school. Then internship. Then residency.
Waited to stop being broke.
Waited to get married (seven years dating, so, I’m not kidding).
Waited to get pregnant (but only the third time…and that wait was particularly long and particularly difficult on all levels).
Waited to adopt. To be selected by a birthmom. To hold that baby.
Waited to adopt from Ethiopia. To jump through the paperwork hoops. To be matched with a referral. To pass court. To travel.
Waited for the CDC to clear my daughter to come home. To be allowed to travel.

Heck, I can turn waiting for Coffeedoc to get home for dinner into a sporting event.
So, yeah, I wait…all too often. And I do it all wrong.
Patience is NOT one of my virtues. Thus, I suffer a bit, or a lot, waiting.

The reason to drone on about all this waiting is that today is a special day.
Today is the day to try, once again, to approach waiting in the right spirit.
Today is the day to reframe the waiting into a better approach: preparation.
Today is the day to recognize the beauty of the wait: the anticipation, the slow glow of expectation.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent.

I love Advent.

When done right Advent is a season (four Sundays) of rich tradition, prayerful contemplative expectation, a settling into the deep; it is combined with an overlaid gauze of building excitement.
It is a preparation -not for a Christmas morning frenzy of torn wrapping paper and too many gifts.
But rather, a mindful preparation for the advent, literally the ‘coming,’ of the most important gift of all.

I almost always fail Advent.
I stay mired in the cycling hubub of my house, the must do’s, the should’s, the pressures and strains. I get lost in the jumble of calendar commitments and then resent the time they snatch away.
It’s the curse of the goal oriented…this sense of ‘eye on the prize.’ Get to Christmas, make it happen.
But the trap is that then you miss the process, the very beauty of the anticipation.
You miss one of the most beautiful seasons of the year.
I wish away this gorgeous season.

This year, once again, I hope to be more mindful.
To prepare the gifts early enough to stop the last minute frantic fretting and gathering.
To dig in and slow way down.
I hope and pray to see and stop and savor the small moments – the ones I might miss as I move so fast through the days.

This is Advent. It’s a beautiful time of preparation, inside and out.
It’s almost Christmas! He is coming.
The waiting begins again.

Know that the Lord is coming and with him all his saints;
that day will dawn with a wonderful light, alleluia.
From the Divine Office: First Sunday of Advent.

>O Emmanuel


O Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14), our king and lawgiver (Isaiah 33:22),
hope and salvation of the peoples (Genesis 49:10; John 4:42):
come to save us, O Lord our God (Isaiah 37:20).

O EMMANUEL, rex et legifer noster,
expectatio gentium et salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Dominus Deus noster.

And you really can’t finish advent, or these O antiphons, without hearing this hymn. This is it. It is our cry in advent (well, always, but especially now). And it is one of my very very favorites, especially in this season. Enjoy.

>O Rex Gentium


O King of the nations (Jeremiah 10:7) and their desire (Haggai 2:7),
cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16), who reunite Jews and pagans into one (Ephesians 2:14):
come and save the man whom you formed from the earth (Genesis 2:7).

O REX gentium et desideratus earum,
lapis angularis qui facis utraque unum:
veni et salva hominem quel de limo formasti.

>O Oriens


O Star who rises (Zechariah 3:8; Jeremiah 23:5), splendor of the eternal light (Wisdom 7:26) and sun of justice (Malachi 3:20):
come and enlighten those who lie in darkness and the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:1; Luke 1:79).

O ORIENS, splendor lucis aeternae et sol iustitiae:
veni et illumina sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.

>O Clavis David


O Key of David (Isaiah 22:23), scepter of the house of Israel (Genesis 49:10),
who open and no one may shut; who shut and no one may open:
come, free from prison captive man, who lies in darkness and the shadow of death (Psalm 107: 10, 14).

O CLAVIS David et sceptrum domus Israel,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.

>O Radix


O Root of Jesse, who stand as a sign for the peoples (Isaiah 11:10),
the kings of the earth are silent before you (Isaiah 52:15) and the nations invoke you:
come to free us, do not delay (Habakkuk 2:3).

O RADIX Iesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare.