I have gained so much this year from the simple art of reflection. In a year where everything became unpredictable almost over night, my simple habit of reflection throughout this month has helped to ground me. I’m so grateful for the teaching of Emily P. Freeman who lead me to to this practice.
Here is what I learned in December:
I suck at completing the Christmas puzzle.
Each year I pull out my old Charles Wynsocki 1000-piece puzzle that depicts a cozy Christmas scene in a quaint town. I always imagine that it will calm my sometimes scattered senses, and help me get into the Christmas spirit. Instead, it reminds me of what else I should be doing instead of trying to figure out where this black piece fits into to another black piece that looks identical to it. The picture above depicts how far I usually get in completing my Christmas puzzle.
With that said, I used to love completing huge puzzles over the Christmas break. I have really fond memories of working on a puzzle for hours at a time and watching it slowly come together. It may just be the season that I am that is making the completion part difficult for me right now.
I am in opposition to the death penalty.
I watched the story of Brandon Bernard unfold earlier this month, and it broke my heart. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I had never thought much about the death penalty before this case came to my attention, and it changed me. I’m also grateful to the men and women use their voices on social media to call attention to injustice and educate those of us (like myself) whom have not paid close enough attention to this issue in our culture.
These words in particular by Bryan Stevenson really struck me: “The question about the death penalty in America is not whether people deserve to die for the crimes they commit. The real question is ‘Do we deserve to kill?’ ” I still have a lot of learning to go in this area, but school is in session.
Our democracy is strong and it is worth fighting for.
I’ve learned a lot about our democratic process in the course of these months since election day. Never in my life have I so closely scrutinized the days/places/events that seal and secure our election process which sits at the center of our democracy. I watched the Electoral College coverage most of the day on December 14th, and I was inspired moved by the sacred traditions that hold this democracy together.
On a similar note, I’m currently finishing up Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin (such a good book, but not for the faint of heart at over 700 pgs.). The literal genius mentioned in the subtitle of the book of Abraham Lincoln cannot be understated nor can the blood of the soldiers who died to keep our Union together. It is easy to see our political turmoil in a vacuum, but it is actually a just small piece of a much larger picture. As a citizen whose knowledge of our politics is constantly evolving, this book served as a place for me to see our country from higher up then my vision allows me in my fixed place.
Hamilton (on Disney +) is just as good as everyone says it is.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I took an entire afternoon while my boys were still in school to watch this entire play while eating an entire frozen pizza by myself (it was small (ish)). I won’t say more, but it was worth every minute, and Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius. Go watch it if you haven’t.
Lighting the Advent candles is a beautiful way to commemorate the season of Advent.
While my boys and I have practiced Advent for years, I haven’t actually used an Advent wreath or lit candles in coordination with the daily movement toward Christmastide. I have spent a lot of time this month focusing my spiritual practice around a new orientation of the Christian calendar (more on that below), and I knew early in December that I wanted to incorporate this ancient tradition into our family Advent practice.
The actual act of lighting a physical candle has a magical way of changing the mood in the room. The shift is a subtle one, but it is very real. My kids stilled when I lit the candles and our family room took on the feel of a tiny cathedral. Aside from the time Dane nearly caught his hair on fire trying to blow one of the purple candles out (#truestory) it was a beautiful experience.
Paying attention to the Christian calender in conjunction with the natural seasons makes me feel more centered in my space.
I bought a new planner from Sacred Ordinary Days that allows me to follow the lectionary and turn my mind toward the ancient Christian calendar. I grew up in the Pentacostal tradition, and I have spent the past 11 years of my life in the Southern Baptist tradition. Both of these centers of faith have served me well over the years, but lately I have been called more and more strongly to an older tradition. I’m still working out what this means for me in terms of what church I will attend, but in the meantime, these small practices at home–reading Scripture and acknowledging my place in time–have been another grounding force for me in a turbulent year.
The process of reflecting on the year ending and spending time setting intentions for the year ahead is one of the most sacred principles in my life.
FInally, I have spent time this month looking ahead to 2021. I use a resource called PowerSheets produced by Cultivate What Matters to journal through the things that matter and then set goals/intentions around those things. The process is time consuming, but it is worth every minute as it gives me direction for each month as I move through the year. Even though 2020 was off-the-charts, my PowerSheets helped to remind me what needed to stay at the center.
On to 2021!